Brain-eating amoeba detected in Bossier City water system

Some residents express shock, concern over the discovery

BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - Bossier City’s water system has a site that has tested positive for the brain-eating amoeba, the Louisiana health department reports.

Naegleria fowleri DNA was detected in the sample collected on Bluebell Drive in the southern part of the water system, officials said.

Low chlorine levels at that location were cited as the reason, officials said.

The tap water is safe for residents to drink.

People cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking water.

But health officials urge consumers to avoid getting water in their noses.

Multiple sites were tested; no other sites showed to be positive for the amoeba.

The city has started a "chlorine flush,” city spokeswoman Traci Landry noted.

  • DO NOT allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when bathing, showering, washing your face or swimming in small hard plastic/blow-up pools.
  • DO NOT jump into or put your head under bathing water (bathtubs, small hard plastic/blow-up pools). Instead, walk or lower yourself in.
  • DO NOT allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers. They might accidentally squirt water up their nose. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water from going up the nose.
  • DO run bath and shower taps and hoses for 5 minutes before use to flush out the pipes. This is most important the first time you use the tap after the water utility raises the disinfectant level.
  • DO keep small hard plastic/blow-up pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and drying them after each use.
  • DO use only boiled and cooled, distilled or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.

If you need to manually top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water:

  • DO NOT top off your pool by submerging the hose in the body of the pool. 
  • DO ensure that the filter is running and top off your pool by adding water directly into the skimmer box. (The hose should not be submerged. Hold the end of the hose in the air at least 2 inches above the flood-level rim of the skimmer box.)
  • DO keep your swimming pool or hot tub adequately disinfected before and during use. Keep pH levels at 7.2-7.8. 
  • If you are using cyanuric acid-free chlorine in you pool, use 2-10 parts per million. 
  • If you are not using cyanuric acid-free chlorine, keep chlorine levels at 1-3 parts per million. 
  • For hot tubs and spas, keep either free chlorine levels from 2-4 parts per million or free bromine levels from 4-6 parts per million.

What is Naegleria fowleri?

Naegleria fowleri causes the primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. In its early stages, symptoms of PAM may be similar to those of bacterial meningitis.

Initial symptoms of PAM start 1-7 days after infection.

The initial symptoms include:

  • headache, 
  • fever, 
  • nausea, 
  • vomiting, and,
  • stiff neck. 

Later symptoms include:

  • confusion, 
  • lack of attention to people and surroundings, 
  • loss of balance, 
  • seizures, and,
  • hallucinations. 

After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within 1-12 days.

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