Louisiana: CDC confirms Naegleria in St. Bernard Parish water system, advisory issued
In a follow-up to the story last week of the parasitic meningitis death of a child in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, testing of the water system by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed the presence of the rare ameba, Naegleria fowleri in four locations of the St. Bernard Parish water system, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) announced Thursday.
Last week, DHH officials reported that 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.”
The confirmation of the presence of the ameba 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.
Related story: Neti pots, Naegleria and you
Health officials offer the following precautionary measures for families:
- 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:
o Pools: free chlorine at 1-3 parts per million (ppm) and pH 7.2-7.8
o Hot tubs/spas: free chlorine 2-4 parts per million (ppm) or free bromine 4-6 ppm and pH 7.2-7.8
o If you need to top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water,
DO 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.
Residents should continue these precautions until extensive testing no longer detects the ameba in the water system. Residents will be made aware when that occurs.
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