State health officials have detected the presence of brain-eating amoeba at a water hydrant in Terrebonne Parish, the parish Waterworks director said today.
On June 20, the Louisiana Department of Health tested the parish’s water system for the amoeba and found the organisms present in the last fire hydrant on Island Road in Isle de Jean Charles, which was the same location that tested positive two years ago, Consolidated Waterworks General Manager Michael A. Sobert said.
“It’s a warm-water species that exists all over,” Sobert said. “It’s in the water, it’s in the bayous and it’s in the lakes.”
Although Sobert said the water is still safe to drink, he said the amoeba could pose a serious threat if it enters through your nasal passages.
“When I say the water is safe to drink, I mean that,” Sobert said. “I drink the water all the time. What’s not safe is having the water up your nose, where water enters your nasal passage. There’s nothing to block that amoeba from getting into your brain. Don’t inhale it, use a Neti pot or flush out your nasal cavities.”
Amoeba, also known as Naegleria fowleri, have endured for millions of years and can be difficult to kill, Sobert said.
“This amoeba has been around since prehistoric times,” he said. “When the weather gets kind of cool they go into a cocoon state, where you can’t penetrate their shell. To kill them they have to be active.”
The most effective way to combat the brain-eating creatures is to disinfect the water with chlorine, Sobert said. The parish changed disinfectants on June 12 to a free chlorine and will remain on free chlorine until Sept. 1.
“About 20 years ago, Australian researchers found that high doses of chlorine had a controlling effect on them,” he said. “The cure is to raise the chlorine residual. It’s a tough little rascal and has been around a long time. It’s like mosquitoes. The only thing we can try to do is manage our water system and try to kill it.”
Residents can visit www.tpcw.org for more information.