Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, several communities in Texas are under a “do not use water” advisory due to fears that a brain-eating amoeba could be in their tap water.
According to the CDC, the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, is most commonly found in warm freshwater systems such as lakes, rivers and hot springs in warmer parts of the U.S. People often get infected by swimming in these areas, but the CDC lists “contaminated tap water” and “inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water” as “very rare instances.”
The amoeba infects people by entering the body through the nose and can travel to the brain, causing infection – a rare, but devastating condition known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
At 9.30pm on Friday night, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) posted an alert that the Brazosport Water Authority was issuing the “Do not use water” advisory for several areas of the state located outside Houston.
The notice urged residents not to drink or use the tap water for any purpose other than flushing the toilet for the duration of the advisory. The TCEQ further reported that the water would remain unusable until the systems had been flushed out and that further samples had confirmed that the water was safe to use.
As of late Saturday morning local time, the advisory was lifted for all residents other than for those in the Lake Jackson area.
Although infection is rare, in July, a person was reported to have contracted the infection in Florida, although the source of the infection was thought to likely be a lake or river, not drinking water. PAM is usually fatal and can present looking much like bacterial or viral meningitis, but is much harder to treat. Of 145 documented infections up to 2018, there were only 4 survivors.