Brain-eating microbe: US city warned over water supply

Residents of Lake Jackson, Texas, are warned about using water after a deadly brain-eating microbe was found within the city’s public water system .
Tests confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri within the system. The amoeba can cause an infection of the brain, which is typically fatal.

Infections are rare within the US, with 34 reported between 2009 and 2018.

Officials in Lake Jackson said they were disinfecting the water system but didn’t skills long this is able to take.

Eight Texas communities were originally told on Friday night to not use their water system for any reason except to flush toilets. The warning was lifted on Saturday for everywhere but Lake Jackson, a city of quite 27,000 residents.

Authorities in Lake Jackson later said that folks could begin using the water, but must boil it before drinking it. Residents were also told to take other measures, including not allowing water to go up their noses while showering or bathing.

The city warned that children, elderly people, and other people with weakened immune systems were “particularly vulnerable”.

Officials said they were flushing the water system, and would then perform tests to make sure the water was safe to use.

An investigation into the city’s water system began after a six-year-old boy contracted the microbe and died earlier this month, Lake Jackson mayor Modesto Mundo told reporters.

Naegleria fowleri occurs naturally in freshwater and is found round the world. It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose then travels to the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in “warm freshwater places”.

The CDC says people cannot get infected by swallowing contaminated water, and it can’t be passed from person to person.

Those infected with Naegleria fowleri have symptoms including fever, nausea and vomiting, also as a stiff neck and headaches. Most die within a week.

An infection was previously confirmed within the US state of Florida earlier this year. At the time, health officials there urged locals to avoid nasal contact with water from taps and other sources.

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