Alarming as it may sound, there is no reason to get paranoid, since the brain-eating amoeba found in Louisiana waters from St. Bernard Parish is not likely to infect you. Still, you may want to take some precautions, just to be sure.
The amoeba called Naegleria fowleri is not at all common, and even in the rare cases when it does appear, it is highly unlikely that people can get it to their brains. Yet, caution is still very much advised as once there, the microscopic pest is deadly.
Naegleria fowleri needs to make it to the brain in order for it to do any significant damage. Once there, the amoeba is fatal in 97 percent of the reported cases. It induces brain swelling which in between one and five days causes fever, headaches, vomiting, nausea, impossibility to concentrate, balance problems, hallucinations and a lot of nasty problems, including seizures.
Also, it can be contagious, the CDC warns.
So, it’s easy to understand why the precautions must be taken seriously. Just this summer, two people in the U.S. died of this amoeba: a Minnesota boy of only 14 and a woman from California. In the last years, Louisiana was the scene of three other deaths at the hands of the Naegleria fowleri. Back in 2013, a 4 year old boy actually died after he had visited St. Bernard Parish.
Still, by the second month of 2014, the parish water tested negative for the amoeba. So how did it get back to the water tanks of Louisiana? The Department of Health and Hospitals, or DHH, tested the waters of the parish and found it was present in two of the seven sites. This is worrisome news for the St. Bernard Parish, as they have previous grim experiences with the amoeba.
The DHH has requested that the parish undergo a 60 day burning of the waters with chlorine to definitively eliminate the amoeba. The people at the parish agreed, thought they said that they though the measure to be a bit overcautious. Still, how cautious can one be with a micro pest which kills within less than a week?
The DHH also warns that people should really avoid bringing the water in proximity to their noses, as it is the only path through which it can get to the brain. One major warning is that people should not jump into their pools, and gently lower themselves instead, since water shooting up the nose is really a no-no. Still the water is drinkable and can be used for most domestic activities.