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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

St. Bernard Parish government says people do not need to worry about safety of the water supply; that's after a child died from a brain infection this past August, and a young man died from the same rare infection in August of 2011.

The directive to St. Bernard residents, 'be at ease.'

'It's important for people to understand we have never found this parasite in the water supply in St. Bernard. There is no parasite in the water. It's been tested. This happened almost six weeks ago. We have made exhaustive tests, not only by our department, but by the state and by a private lab to ensure integrity,' said St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta.

After an amoeba that thrives in warm fresh waters in the South took the life of a 4-year-old from Mississippi who visited people in the Violet area, the parish is taking precautions.

'They feel it was contracted in the with the Slip 'N Slide being out in the mud and the water for over a 12 or 14-hour period, in very hot conditions. They did find some of the parasite in the water tank of the toilet, inside the house, but again, if fresh water's allowed to sit for a very long period of time, that can happen,' said Peralta.

LSU Health Sciences Center's Dr. Fred Lopez says this amoeba can only cause fatal brain damage if it gets in the nasal passage, like by jumping in fresh waters, or using tap water in a neti pot.

'You can drink water that's contaminated, even with this organism you're not going to get this brain infection. You're not going to get it from somebody else who's infected with this,' explained Dr. Lopez, who is an expert in infectious diseases.

You can take precautions when swimming in fresh waters.

'Try to block the passage of water through your nose. Some people pinch their nose when they go underwater. Some people wear nose clips. At the very least, try to keep your head above the level of the water,' Dr. Lopez added.

Chlorinating takes care of contamination, but the parish is still unclear if there was ever a break in the waterline to the house. And after six weeks, parish officials still have not talked to the homeowners about that.

In the U.S., there have only been 128 cases of this infection since 1961. Only one person survived, and another patient, sick now, could be the second.

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