Turn on any media show and you will quickly find that, not only are we dying, but we are dying of so many things that it is a wonder that any of us are still walking. The media is constantly brightening our day with the new threat from around the world, and also from your backyard. As if you needed one more thing to be worried about, there are reports that a “brain-eating” amoeba may be making its way into your drinking water soon. There are new reports that the Naegleria Fowleri, as the scientists call it, may be found in the waters of Louisiana.
The Naegleria fowler, or the “brain-eating” amoeba, is an agent that is known to lurk in waters and gain entrance into a person’s body through the nose. Once inside, it is able to infiltrate the brain and kill the unwitting host. This parasite is a rare thing, but just the thought that it can be in the waters of Louisiana, has caused panic to ensue. Is it really something that we should be worried about, or is it just more media hype that is created to boost ratings? What is the real threat being posed to the Public Health system?
What makes this news story even more thrilling is that it was found in a small parish, located in the country, which is inhabited by everyday, hardworking farmers. Just 30 miles outside of New Orleans, St. John the Baptist Parish is home to 44,000 Louisiana residents. It is the home of a large faming community and holds the famous andouille festival yearly. Everyone was shocked and terrified when it was reported that over 12.000 of those resident’s water supplies had been infiltrated with this deadly and ominous amoeba. The good news? Authorities say that there is no reason to panic.
All the people have to do is to stop water from going up their noses when swimming or bathing. That sounds comforting and easy enough, right? Due to the fact that the digestive tract is impervious to the amoeba, ingesting the water has no potential health threats. Although no one has been struck ill with the life threatening parasite, there was a “chlorine burn” flush to the water ways to ensure that the water would again be safe.
Naegleria fowleri works by causing an infection to the brain that is almost, in all cases, fatal. The CDC has only had less than 10 cases reported per year since 1962, so the threat seems to be very minuscule for the average American. Attempting to calm fears for the Louisiana residents, and the nation at large, the CDC made the following recommendations for any regions where this lethal amoeba has been detected:
• When in small hard plastic or blow up pools, swimming, showering, bathing or washing your face avoid allowing water to move up into your nose, or to sniff water
• Do not put your head under bathing waters, or jump into them. It is always recommended to lower yourself into them
• Don’t allow small children to play with garden hoses or sprinklers, avoid slip and slides and any other water activity that can allow water to go up their nose
• Make sure to run water in taps, showers, and hoses for a minimum of 5 minutes before you use the water if it has been sitting for a while. That allows the disinfectant level to rise
• Before you use a pool, or blow up pool, make sure to empty and sanitize it
• Only use boiled, distilled, sterile or boiled/cooled water for making any type of nose solutions, neti pots or saline type water flushes
• Always keep your swimming pool properly disinfected for safety
This is not the first time that Louisiana has been the hotbed for finding these tiny little lethal amoebas, there was another incidence when they were found in the water supply after Katrina. There was also an incidence of two children being killed in Arizona in 2003. In large this amoeba is most commonly found in the warm waters of the South region. So, although they do cause a Public Health threat, I don’t think that you should be concerned any time soon.