The death of a 6-year-old boy who officials said was hospitalized with brain-eating amoeba sparked warnings about a possibly tainted water supply in a suburban Houston community.
Maria Castillo, the mother of Josiah McIntyre, said Saturday her son died Sept. 8 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and that doctors told her the cause was brain-eating amoeba.
Hospital spokeswoman Jenn Jacome confirmed his death there but said privacy laws prevented her from discussing the cause.
The city of Lake Jackson, Texas, said in a statement Saturday that an unnamed 6-year-old boy had been hospitalized for “a rare and often fatal brain eating amoeba” it identified as naegleria fowleri.
“We are saddened by death of Josiah McIntyre,” Councilman Vinay Singhania said by email. “We are still investigating and testing.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people swimming in warm freshwater are the amoeba’s most common victims and that it usually enters through the nose.
“You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria,” it said in guidance on parasites posted on its website.
The city said it narrowed the source of Josiah’s amoeba after his family indicated two possibilities: a water play area called the Lake Jackson Civic Center Splash Pad, and a home lawn hose.
CDC testing indicated the splash pad storage tank, as well as a fire hydrant near the pad, were positive for the amoeba, the city said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued an advisory Friday night for Lake Jackson and seven other communities not to use the water. It was later lifted for all but Lake Jackson until the local water system could be flushed and determined safe.
Lake Jackson officials were offering residents a free case of water for each day of the “do not use” order.
“If it does come back that it did come from the water system, that’s a little scary,” Castillo said.
Josiah was a big baseball fan, and his favorite player was Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa who, Castillo said, sent condolences to the family.
“He was a super active 6-year-old who loved to be outside and loved playing baseball,” she said. “He loved the Houston Astros.”
Contamination of public water systems in the U.S. by the microbe is rare but not unheard of. According to the CDC, the first deaths from naegleria fowleri found in tap water from treated U.S. public drinking water systems occurred in southern Louisiana in 2011 and 2013.
The Associated Press, Suzanne Ciechalski and Shamar Walters contributed.