Additional test results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm the presence of the rare ameba Naegleria fowleri in four locations of the St. Bernard Parish water system, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced Thursday.
DHH announced last week that the encephalitis death of a child that had visited St. Bernard Parish was connected to the rare ameba, which testing confirmed was present at the home. Because some water samples showed low residual levels of chlorine, DHH sent additional water samples to the CDC for testing last week and St. Bernard parish began flushing its water lines with additional chlorine last week, as a precautionary measure.
Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane said, "We know that chlorine kills Naegleria fowleri, which is why it was critical that the parish proactively began flushing its water system with additional chlorine last week. The parish will continue this action until it raises chlorine residuals to recommended levels, and this process will continue for several weeks. DHH is working with parish officials to provide assistance and support to the parish's staff to ensure that chlorine levels are being monitored daily."
State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said, "The water is safe to drink and there are basic precautions that families can take -- such as chlorinating their pools and avoiding getting water in their noses -- to protect themselves, though infection from this ameba is very rare."
While the water is safe to drink, there is a risk if the ameba enters their nose. There are basic precautions that families can take -- such as chlorinating their pools and avoiding getting water in their noses -- to protect themselves, though infection from this ameba is very rare."
Today's confirmation is from four sites located in Violet and Arabi. DHH scientists pulled samples from hydrants and faucets that connected directly to the water lines. Hundreds of liters of water were filtered in order to capture any amebas that might be present in the water.
Naegleria fowleri is a rare infection that has been associated with three deaths traced to water in Louisiana since 2011. Two people died in 2011, in addition to the death being announced last week. The CDC confirmed that Naegleria fowleri was the cause of the death after specialized testing was conducted.
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES FOR FAMILIES
According to the CDC, personal actions to reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection should focus on limiting the amount of water going up a person's nose and lowering the chances that Naegleria fowleri may be in the water. For information on preventative measures, please visit the CDC Website here:http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/prevention.html
- 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 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 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:
DO place the hose directly into the skimmer box and ensure that the filter is running.
DO NOT top off by placing the hose in the body of the pool.