Texas has stepped up efforts to counter the threat posed by a brain-eating amoeba detected in the water supply of a coastal county that led to the death of a six-year-old boy earlier this month.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday issued a disaster declaration for Brazoria County after Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba, was found in the water supply of the city of Lake Jackson in the greater Houston metropolitan area.
“You don’t hear about this stuff until it happens to you. You don’t think you’ll be that one in 72 million until it happens to you,” Maria Castillo, the mother of the boy who died after contracting a brain infection caused by the amoeba, wrote in a recent Facebook post.
The single-celled organism is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, and it usually infects people when it enters the body through the nose, travelling up to the brain where it causes a rare and often deadly infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although infections from the amoeba are rare, the fatality rate is over 97 per cent. Only four people out of 145 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2018 have survived, according to the CDC.
Officials in Lake Jackson launched an investigation into the local water supply after they were notified about the boy’s case in early September. His family had indicated a city splash pad and a hose at his home are where the boy, Josiah McIntyre, could have been exposed.
McIntyre died on Sept. 8.
Tests on the water at these and other locations detected the organism in three of 11 samples, according to a statement from the city.
Officials are urging Lake Jackson residents to boil tap water for drinking and cooking.
“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,” Abbott said in his statement.