The governor of the United States state of Texas on Sunday issued a disaster declaration after a brain-eating amoeba was discovered in the local water supply of Brazoria County. Greg Abbott’s declaration followed an investigation into the death of 6-year-old Josiah McIntyre, who had contracted the microbe in the county’s Lake Jackson city, according to The Washington Post.
The death had prompted local authorities and experts from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the water. The preliminary results, which came back on Friday, showed that three out of 11 samples collected tested positive for the brain-eating amoeba.
The state of Texas is taking swift action to respond to the situation and support the communities whose water systems have been impacted by this amoeba. I urge Texans in Lake Jackson to follow the guidance of local officials and take the appropriate precautions to protect their health and safety as we work to restore safe tap water in the community.— Texas Governor Greg Abbott
A statement from the governor’s office said that authorities were flushing and disinfecting the water system to remove the amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri. The amoeba can enter the body through the nasal membranes from where it makes its way to the brain, causing hyperthermia, migraine, vomiting, stiff neck, fatigue, dizziness, confusion and hallucinations, according to AFP.
After the confirmation of the presence of the amoeba in the water, a do-not-use advisory was issued for eight communities in the area on Friday, warning citizens not to use tap water for cooking or drinking. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also urged residents to avoid water in the nose during swimming, bathing or other activities, and prohibited children from playing with water hoses. It also advised boiling tap water before drinking.
While the do-not-use advisory has been removed for the county, a boil notice continues to remain. Under the boil water notice, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended bringing the water to rolling boil for a minute before consumption.
McIntyre’s grandparents told the Houston Chronicle, a Texas-based newspaper, that the deceased child might have been exposed to contaminated water at a splash park, which has been closed.
“The notification to us at that time was that he had played at one of [the] play fountains and he may have also played with a water hose at the home,” Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said.
The amoeba is usually found in warm lakes, springs and rivers, according to The Washington Post. People can get infected while swimming in these water bodies. As many as 145 such infections have been reported in the United States since 1962, and only four people survived, according to the country’s federal health agency. Texas had the highest number of such infections with 36 cases, followed by Florida with 35.