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Top stories 2013: #6 Deadly amoeba in St. Bernard tap water

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The death of a small child in St. Bernard Parish in 2013 led to a frightening discovery... a brain eating amoeba was in the water coming from the taps in the parish.

Officials confirmed that the child was playing on a Slip'N'Slide when water went up the child's nose.  The child died after the amoeba led to brain swelling.

There had also been an earlier death in St. Bernard in 2011 from the brain eating parasite.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of the rare ameba in the water system in St. Bernard.

The result was months of flushing the system with high doses of chlorine to kill the amoeba. 

Residents were advised that the water was safe to drink, but that they should avoid getting it in their noses.

The discovery also led to new rules about increasing chlorine in all water systems.

DHH released the following advice for people in St. Bernard Parish:


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. Preventative measures recommended by the CDC include the following:

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:

Pools: free chlorine at 1-3 parts per million (ppm) and pH 7.2-7.8

Hot tubs/spas: free chlorine 2-4 parts per million (ppm) or free bromine 4-6 ppm and pH 7.2-7.8

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 by placing the hose in the body of the pool.

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Locations : St. Bernard Parish
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