A Louisiana parish has confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri, a deadly amoeba that eats the brains of its hosts, in their water supply.
Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals issued a warning to residents in St. Bernard Parish about traces of the deadly microbe Naegleria fowleri in the drinking water. According to The Examiner, the amoeba species was detected in two locations and is infamous for its taste for human brains.
The St. Bernard Parish water authority will follow orders from the state to carry out a chlorine “burn,” raising the level of chlorine in the drinking water to kill off populations of the amoeba.
thrives in warm, fresh water and causes for meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rare but deadly infection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the illness is usually contracted when a person gets water up their nose from swimming or neti pots. While PAM can’t be caught by drinking water, it nearly always produces fatal results.
Research from 2003 shows that two children died from PAM in Arizona after Naegleria fowleri was found in neighborhoods where the plumbing was warm enough for the amoebas to survive. A recent 2015 study also showed that a four-year-old boy in Louisiana died from PAM that he caught not by swimming in a body of infected water, but from playing on a water slide at his home.
Cases of the illness caused by the brain-eating amoeba are still rare – the CDC states that only 133 cases of PAM were reported between 1962 and 2014. Children comprise 84 percent of these cases, but anyone can catch the disease if infected water makes its way into the nose.