Brain Amoeba Found in Tests of Water Supply Where Boy Died

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This photomicrograph of a brain tissue specimen depicts the cytoarchitectural changes associated with a free-living, Naegleria fowleri, amebic infection. Free-living amebae belonging to the genera Acanthamoeba, Balamuthia, and Naegleria are important causes of disease in humans and animals, though only one specie of Naegleria, Naegleria fowleri, causes disease in humans.

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By David Simpson, CNN

(CNN) — Tests of a Louisiana parish’s water supply confirmed the presence of a rare amoeba blamed for last month’s death of a 4-year-old boy.

The state’s Department of Health & Hospitals said Thursday the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which causes a generally fatal brain infection, was found in tests of St. Bernard Parish water conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

The water is safe to drink, state officials said, although they continued to caution against getting water in the nose, the route the amoeba takes.

The parish water supply came under suspicion because its chlorine levels were low. Chlorine kills the amoeba, said state Assistant Health Secretary J.T. Lane.

Lane said the parish, along the Gulf Coast southeast of New Orleans, began flushing water lines with chlorine last week, a process that will continue for several weeks until chlorine levels reach recommended levels.

A Mississippi boy who had played on water slide made out of a long sheet of plastic while visiting St. Bernard Parish contracted amoebic meningoencephalitis and died last month. Tests at the home where he was playing found the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.

Officials say less than 1% of patients survive the infection. But 12-year-old Kali Hardig survived after contracting the amoeba in July, possibly at a Little Rock, Arkansas, water park.

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By David Simpson, CNN

Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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