SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

CDC confirms Naegleria fowleri presence in St. Bernard Parish water system

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced on September 12 a water quality test confirmed the presence of the Naegleria fowleri ameba in the St. Bernard Parish water system.

The testing began after a child died at the St. Bernard Parish hospital due to encephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri ameba. DHH sent water samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after noting some water samples had low chlorine levels.

St. Bernard immediately began increasing chlorine levels to recommended levels while it awaited the test results from the CDC, which confirmed the presence of the rare ameba.

"We know that chlorine kills Naegleria fowleri, which is why it was critical that the parish proactively began flushing its water system with additional chlorine last week," Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane said. "The parish will continue this action until it raises chlorine residuals to recommended levels and this process will continue for several weeks. DHH is working with parish officials to provide assistance and support to the parish's staff to ensure that chlorine levels are being monitored daily."

The Naegleria fowleri ameba is rare; it can cause encephalitis in its victims if it travels through a person's nose.

"The water is safe to drink and there are basic precautions that families can take -- such as chlorinating their pools and avoiding getting water in their noses -- to protect themselves, though infection from this ameba is very rare," State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said.

Naegleria fowleri infections have caused three deaths in Louisiana since 2011.