A brain-eating amoeba has been found in the water system Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish.
The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, was detected in Water District 1, which serves 12,577 people in the cities of Reserve, Garyville and Mt. Airy.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) found the contaminant after a sampling the water, part of a surveillance program launched earlier this month.
“During the ameba testing, DHH discovered the system was not in compliance with the State's emergency rule, which requires water systems to maintain a minimum disinfectant residual level of 0.5 milligrams per liter throughout all of their distribution lines. This 0.5 mg/L level is known to control the Naegleria fowleri ameba," the parish said in a release.
Residents can consume the water, but officials caution them to avoid getting water in their nose.
The amoeba can travel up the nose and into the brain where it causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to the CDC.
"Families can take simple steps to protect themselves from exposure to this amoeba, the most important being to avoid allowing water to go up your nose while bathing or swimming in a pool," Louisiana State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry told WDSU. "It is important to remember that the water is safe to drink; the ameba cannot infect an individual through the stomach."
DHH will begin a chlorine burn in the water system Thursday at 7 a.m. that will last for 60 days. Officials say during that time residents may notice a difference in the taste and smell of their tap water.
In 2013, a child died after contracting the amoeba while visiting St. Bernard Parish, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed last September.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / CDC / Dr. Govinda S. Visvesvara, Center for Disease Control and Prevention