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Deadly amoeba found in Louisiana parish water supply kills boy

September 20, 2013

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A deadly parasite that can severely affect the brain if inhaled has been found in the drinking water supply system in St Bernard Parish, La., after the death of a four-year-old boy.

Authorities in the parish have already flushed the water system with extra amounts of chlorine. According to the state's assistant secretary for public health, J.T. Lane, chlorine was known to kill the "brain-eating" amoeba, Naegleria fowleri.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the symptoms of the infection include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck. The infection progresses very fast and usually the outcome is fatal within 12 days, the CDC noted.

Meanwhile, Louisiana health officer Jimmy Guidry explained that the water was safe to drink but there were preventive measures that residents could take to avoid an infection. They should avoid water getting into their nose because this is the only way for the amoeba to reach the brain, and they should treat the water in their pools with chlorine.

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As a precaution, schools in St Bernard Parish are shutting off water fountains. Parents are advised not to leave children unsupervised when playing with hoses or sprinklers.

Authorities say it is still not known how the amoeba got into the water system but some speculate that it may be related to the smaller population base after Hurricane Katrina.