Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has declared a state of disaster after officials found a brain-eating amoeba in a city’s water supply. The Naegleria fowleri amoeba has been in the news this year for causing multiple deaths. Now, officials are working to prevent further fatalities following the passing of a young boy.
State of Disaster in Texas
The situation in Brazoria county began with the tragic death of six-year-old Josiah McIntyre. According to USA Today, the boy began experiencing fever, headaches, and vomiting after playing at a Lake Jackson “splash-pad.”
First grader Josiah McIntyre died earlier this month.— Melissa Correa (@KHOUmelissa) September 26, 2020
The 6-year old was infected with a rare brain-eating ameba that’s normally found in freshwater.
Except the family didn’t visit any lakes or rivers.
Josiah played at a Lake Jackson splash pad and with a home water hose. pic.twitter.com/g7L4nV35Ol
After testing him for strep, COVID-19 and other illnesses, doctors determined that Josiah had the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. However, it was too late to save the boy, who passed away on September 8.
Officials later found the amoeba living on the water hose at the McIntyre’s household.
The incident prompted the city of Lake Jackson to test its water supply, turning up disheartening results. On September 25, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was alerted to the presence of Naegleria fowleri in the water supply for all of Brazoria County.
Initially, officials warned county residents not to use water at all. However, on Saturday, September 26, they reported that “the issue has been narrowed to the city of Lake Jackson’s water distribution system.” Officials now recommend citizens of that city boil any water before using it.
The next day, Governor Abbott announced that three of 11 water tests in Brazoria County showed traces of Naegleria fowleri. According to Abbott, the amoeba posed “an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life.”
In a statement, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said officials are “actively working on a plan to flush and disinfect the water system.”
Josiah’s case echoes that of another young man who died from Naegleria fowleri earlier this year. Like Josiah, 13-year-old Tanner Lake Wall of Florida was suspected of having strep when he experienced nausea, vomiting, headaches and stiffness. After doctors determined Naegleria fowleri to be the cause, Tanner’s brain function ceased, and he passed away on August 6.
It’s speculated that Tanner came in contact with the amoeba at a campground with a lake and water park.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria fowleri thrives in warm water and is often present in Southern lakes during the summer. As the amoeba is known to enter the body through the nasal cavity, the agency recommends avoiding activities where water may enter the nose.