State of Louisiana's Response to Confirmation of Rare Ameba in local Water Systems

Naegleria fowleri

The Louisiana Department of Health has, in rare instances, discovered the presence of Naegleria fowleri ameba in a local water system. When we find this ameba, we work with the water system to make sure the proper remedial actions are taken. Aftwerward, we follow up with more testing to determine if those actions were successful.

On this page, you will find updated information about any active situations involving Naegleria fowleri statewide. You will also find helpful tips for how to keep your family safe and a form to help you ask specific questions of the Department.

What is Naegleria fowleri?

Exposure to the ameba Naegleria fowleri typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, Naegleria fowleri infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated tap water less than 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit) enters the nose when people submerge their heads or when people irrigate their sinuses with devices such as a neti pot. People cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking water.

Naegleria fowleri causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. In its early stages, symptoms of PAM may be similar to symptoms of bacterial meningitis.

Initial symptoms of PAM start one to seven days after infection. The initial symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days.

 

Precautionary Measures for Families

According to the CDC, personal actions to reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection should focus on limiting the amount of water going up a person's nose and lowering the chances that Naegleria fowleri may be in the water. Preventative measures recommended by the CDC include the following:

  • 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 instead.
  • 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 five 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 drying them 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.
  • If you need to manually top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water, follow the guidance below.
    • DO ensure that the filter is running and top off your pool by adding water directly* into the skimmer box.
    • DO NOT top off your pool by submerging the hose in the body of the pool.
      • *NOTE: The hose should not be submerged into the skimmer box or pool water. Hold the end of your hose in the air at least two inches above the flood-level rim of the skimmer box. This can be accomplished by securing the hose to a heavy object such as a chair or cinder block above the skimmer and ensuring the hose will run into the skimmer box without the hose being submerged.
      • DO keep your swimming pool or hot tub adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection standards are listed below.
        • For pools, keep pH levels from 7.2 to 7.8. If you are using cyanuric acid-free chlorine, use between two and 10 parts per million. If you are not using cyanuric acid-free chlorine, keep chlorine levels at one to three parts per million.
        • For hot tubs and spas, keep pH levels from 7.2 to 7.8, and keep either free chlorine levels from two to four parts per million or free bromine levels from four to six parts per million.

Other Resources

Residents should continue these precautions until testing no longer confirms the presence of the ameba in the water system. Residents will be made aware when that occurs. For further information on preventative measures, please visit the CDC website here: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/prevention.html

Ascension Parish Water Systems Frequently Asked Questions - Multiple media reports about the status of an application submitted by Ascension Parish to the Louisiana Department of Health have caused confusion about the water system in which the ameba was found. - Click here for FAQs.

For the Media

Members of the media should contact LDH's Bureau of Media and Communications with questions about LDH's response or to schedule interviews with state experts on Naegleria fowleri and water regulations.

News Releases

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