A horrifying and deadly amoeba has been found in the drinking water in one Louisiana parish, and while officials say the water is safe to drink and cook with, it is potentially deadly if it gets up a person’s nose. The prospect makes bathing, showering, swimming, and washing one’s face seem suddenly hazardous.
According to CNN, tests confirmed the presence of a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which is found in hot springs and warm fresh water in the southeastern United States. Scientists say the amoeba is harmless when consumed by drinking or cooking with the contaminated water, but if it gets in a person’s nose the amoeba can travel to the brain. Officials say less than one percent of patients survive the brain infection the amoeba causes. One 12-year-old girl survived such an infection in July thanks to an experimental drug and her mother, who convinced doctors that her daughter’s flulike symptoms were more than just an ordinary flu. The girl is suspected to have been infected by the amoeba at an Arkansas water park.
Initial symptoms of infection are generally flulike, including headache, fever nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations, though the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days.
The horrifying brain-eating amoeba was discovered in Lousiana’s St. Bernard Parish, where officials became suspicious because the water’s chlorine levels were low. Chlorine kills the amoeba, which had started to flourish in the parish water. A boy died last month after being infected by the amoeba while playing on a plastic backyard waterslide in the area.
Officials say the parish’s water lines are being flushed with chlorine, and it will take three weeks until levels reach the recommended amount and the threat is eliminated.