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Posted: Friday, 13 September 2013 4:27PM

Other parishes taking precaution against brain-eating amoeba

Following the news that a rare but deadly brain-eating organism had been found in the St. Bernard Parish water supply, officials from other local parishes are seeking to assure residents of the safety of their water systems.

State health officials say the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was responsible for the death of a 4-year-old boy playing on a slip-and-slide recently in St. Bernard, leading to the testing that found the amoeba in four separate locations around the parish.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nunguesser Jr. says he instructed parish employees to begin flushing out that parish's water system "purely as a precaution" this morning.  He said that residents may see open fire hydrants as part of the flushing procedure.

Nunguesser tells WWL First News that he is also asking the state to test for the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in Plaquemines Parish to rule out any doubt about the safety of the supply.

The office of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said late today the Sewerage and Water Board is "constantly monitoring the status" of the Orleans Parish water system, but pointed out that the St. Bernard and New Orleans systems are completely separate systems.

In Jefferson Parish, Public Works Director Kazem Alikhani  told us the systems in place in his department is more than effective at preventing an outbreak of an organism such as this.  

"We provide at least five or ten times of the amount of required disinfection in the daily water drinking supply," Alikhani said.

Officials in St. Charles Parish are also increasing their sampling of the water supply.

"Effective disinfection is the main method of control against the amoeba," St. Charles Parish officials said in a statement.  "This includes maintaining continuous disinfection residuals throughout the water distribution system. St. Charles Parish routinely monitors chlorine residuals at 77 locations throughout the system, from very near the plant to the end of the line and in between."

Health officials say the amoeba is only dangerous if it is inhaled through the nose.  State and federal officials say the water in St. Bernard is safe to drink and cook with, but those officials urge St. Bernard residents to avoid getting water in their nose until they give the all-clear.

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