Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
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UPDATE: The St. Bernard Parish school system says it has 'cut off water' to the fountains at the public schools. Alternate water sources are being provided.
NEW ORLEANS -- A week after state health officials confirmed the death of a 4-year-old boy from a brain eating amoeba, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says it has found other traces of the amoeba in the St. Bernard Parish water supply.
Officials say despite new test results coming back positive, the water is safe to use, but they’re also telling St. Bernard Parish residents to be cautious.
Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed that a 4-year-old Mississippi boy visiting a family in Violet died from the rare brain eating amoeba.
St. Bernard Parish officials told Eyewitness News at the time that the child had been playing with friends on a slip and slide. The combination of warmth and moisture turned into a deadly breeding ground for the amoeba.
Thursday night, the CDC announced that four locations in St. Bernard Parish’s water system tested positive. The four sites are located in both Violet and Arabi.
A parish press release says scientists pulled samples from hydrants and faucets that are connected directly to the parish’s water lines. Since the parish received word of the boy’s death, it has been flushing its water system with increased amounts of chlorine as a precautionary measure.
Philessia Johnson, who just opened a beauty salon in Arabi, said hearing that the amoeba is in the parish’s water system is alarming.
“I hope that the parish will come together and do something about it, not just for us at home but for the businesses in the area, because I do use water for my clients,” Johnson said.
We tried to track down St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta to talk to us about what the parish plans to do moving forward, but he did not return our phone calls in time for Thursday night’s newscast.
The state offered the following health recommendations:
- 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 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.
- DO keep your swimming pool adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection means:
- Pools: free chlorine at 1-3 parts per million (ppm) and pH 7.2-7.8; Hot tubs/spas: free chlorine 2-4 parts per million (ppm) or free bromine 4-6 ppm and pH 7.2-7.8; If you need to top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water,
Residents should continue these precautions until extensive testing no longer detects the amoeba in the water system. Residents will be made aware when that occurs.
St. Bernard Parish Government has set up a recorded message which provides information on precautionary measures suggested by the Center for Disease Control. Residents can contact 504-278-4251 to hear personal actions that will help reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri (Amoeba) infection.
For information on preventative measures, click here.