DHH: Brain-eating amoeba found in portion of Ascension Parish water system

A map of the parish water system. The spot labeled MRT- 009 is where the amoeba was found.
A map of the parish water system. The spot labeled MRT- 009 is where the amoeba was found.

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) confirmed the detection of a potentially deadly amoeba at a small water station in Ascension Parish.

DHH notified officials Tuesday afternoon that the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found in the Ascension Consolidated Utility District 1 at the Brou Road site in Donaldsonville. The water system serves approximately 1,800 residents in a small community north of Donaldsonville.

The water is safe to drink, but residents should avoid getting water in their noses.

The water system has been asked by DHH to conduct a 60-day chlorine burn to make sure any remaining brain-eating amoeba are eliminated. Parish officials confirmed that the burn would be conducted out of an abundance of caution.

The station did not meet the chlorine disinfectant level, but three other sites that were tested did meet the requirements and came back negative for the amoeba.

DHH had tested the water system as part of the state's new public drinking water surveillance program and conducts the tests each summer when the temperatures rise.

The agency has tested 12 other water systems so far, and only St. Bernard Parish tested positive on July 22. The parish is conducting the recommended chlorine burn to remove any presence of amoeba.

Naegleria fowleri amoeba occurs naturally in freshwater.

The CDC recommended the following preventative measures:

  • 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); walk or lower yourself in.
  • DO NOT allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers, as they may accidentally squirt water up their nose. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water going up the nose.
  • DO run bath and shower taps and hoses for five 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 allowing them to dry 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.
  • DO keep your swimming pool adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection means:
    • Pools: free chlorine at 1 to 3 parts per million (ppm) and pH 7.2 to 7.8, and
    • Hot tubs/spas: free chlorine 2 to 4 parts per million (ppm) or free bromine 4 to 6 ppm and pH 7.2 to 7.8.
  • If you need to top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water, place the hose directly into the skimmer box and ensure that the filter is running. Do not top off the pool by placing the hose in the body of the pool.

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