The amoeba kills the majority of people who contract the water-dwelling Naegleria fowleri, though cases are rare.
The state of Texas has stepped up efforts to counter the threat posed by a brain-eating amoeba detected in the water supply of a coastal county that led to the death of a six-year-old boy earlier this month.
“You don’t hear about this stuff until it happens to you. You don’t think you’ll be that 1 in 72 million until it happens to you,” Maria Castillo, the mother of the boy who died after contracting a brain infection caused by the amoeba, wrote in a recent Facebook post.
Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday issued a disaster declaration for Brazoria County after Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba, was found in the water supply of the city of Lake Jackson in the greater Houston metropolitan area.
Today I issued a disaster declaration in Brazoria Co. after a deadly amoeba was found in Lake Jackson, Texas.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 28, 2020
The single-celled organism is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, and it usually infects people when it enters the body through the nose, travelling up to the brain where it causes a rare and often deadly infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although infections from Naegleria fowleri are rare, the death rate is more than 97 percent. Only four people out of 145 known infected individuals in the US from 1962 to 2018 have survived, according to the CDC.
Officials in Lake Jackson launched an investigation into the local water supply after they were notified about the boy’s case in early September.
His family had indicated two possible water sources in Lake Jackson where the boy could have been exposed to the amoeba, a city splash pad and a hose at his home.
Tests on the water at these and other locations detected Naegleria fowleri in three of 11 samples, according to a statement from the city.
Officials are urging Lake Jackson residents to boil tap water for drinking and cooking.
Brain-eating amoebae have previously been detected across the US, including in Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida.