It’s a rare, albeit fatal disease. A warning was issued on July 22 by the Louisiana Department of Health – hospitals residents in St. Bernard Parish were alerted about the discovery of Naegleria fowleri in drinking water in the Parish. In order to remove the threat of brain-eating amoeba that was discovered by state testing in two places, the local water authority has been told to conduct a chlorine ‘burn’ – this aims to raise the level of chlorine in the water to eliminate this deadly bacteria. The simple addition of Chlorine in the water could do wonders in preventing frightening deaths and lowering hysteria among the public.
A rare, and very serious infection is caused by the microscopic organism called the primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) stated that Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that lives in warm, fresh water. The amoeba affects people who have water up their nose through swimming or other water activities.
Side note: The bacteria travels to the brain via the thin relatively ‘porous’ cribiform plate in the anterior cranial fossa (cavity) of the brain. The region is where the olfactory nerve (or nerve responsible for sense of smell) enters into the brain.
Fortunately, the amoeba infection is not contracted through drinking water. The CDC notes that several cases of PAM resulted from colonization of public water systems by N. fowleri.
The disease is rare, extremely rare. The CDC reports 133 cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis in the period 1962-2014. Out of these cases, 112 were contracted by children. Over 75 percent of the 133 infections were in male patients. The amoeba has also been isolated in autopsy samples dated as long ago as 1937.
It was found by a 2003 study of the water systems Arizona homes where two children died that the amoeba was widely spread, in areas of the plumbing where the water could stand and become warm.
Death of a four-year-old due to PAM in Louisiana was looked at by another study that was published in 2015. The boy had no history of playing in fresh water but was a frequent user of a water slide at his home. N. fowleri was found in samples from both the home and its water supply.
Most illnesses, however, are linked to the patient’s exposure in fresh water lakes and streams.
Infected people were often reported to have participated in water-related activities such as swimming underwater, diving, and head dunking that could have caused water to go up the nose.
The Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals offers several suggestions for preventing an infection by Naegleria fowleri. Experts added that water toys used by children should be cleaned and scrubbed after every use and chlorine levels in swimming pools and hot tubs should be kept at levels to ensure disinfecting the water.