Shreveport water not at risk for deadly amoeba

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 7:38pm

According to Shreveport Director of Water and Sewerage, the city's drinking water is not at risk of harboring the deadly amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, making sure chlorine levels are at an adequate level to kill off the amoeba. Director Barbara Featherston stands by her water, saying it's completely safe to drink.

This comes just one day after additional test results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of the rare ameba Naegleria fowleri in four locations of the St. Bernard Parish water system, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).

DHH announced last week that the encephalitis death of a child that had visited St. Bernard Parish was connected to the rare ameba, which testing confirmed was present at the home. Because some water samples showed low residual levels of chlorine, DHH sent additional water samples to the CDC for testing last week and St. Bernard parish began flushing its water lines with additional chlorine last week, as a precautionary measure.

Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane said, "We know that chlorine kills Naegleria fowleri, which is why it was critical that the parish proactively began flushing its water system with additional chlorine last week. The parish will continue this action until it raises chlorine residuals to recommended levels, and this process will continue for several weeks. DHH is working with parish officials to provide assistance and support to the parish's staff to ensure that chlorine levels are being monitored daily."

State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said, "The water is safe to drink and there are basic precautions that families can take -- such as chlorinating their pools and avoiding getting water in their noses -- to protect themselves, though infection from this ameba is very rare."

Today's confirmation is from four sites located in Violet and Arabi. DHH scientists pulled samples from hydrants and faucets that connected directly to the water lines. Hundreds of liters of water were filtered in order to capture any amebas that might be present in the water.

Naegleria fowleri is a rare infection that has been associated with three deaths traced to water in Louisiana since 2011. Two people died in 2011, in addition to the death being announced last week. The CDC confirmed that Naegleria fowleri was the cause of the death after specialized testing was conducted.


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