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Death of 6-year-old boy in Houston from brain-eating amoeba raises alarm over water supply

2020-09-27T20:23:38.790Z

Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba that is found in fresh water and in soil. It infects people when contaminated fluid enters the body through the nose. It is usually deadly.



By Dennis Romero and Minyvonne Burke - NBC News

The death of a 6-year-old boy who, according to authorities, was hospitalized for an infection from the amoeba

Naegleria fowleri

, popularly known as brain-eating, was what triggered warnings about a possible contaminated water supply in several cities near Houston Texas.

Maria Castillo, Josiah McIntyre's mother, said Saturday that her son died Sept. 8 at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, and that doctors told her the cause was a brain-eating amoeba.

The hospital spokeswoman, Jenn Jacome, confirmed her death, but due to privacy laws she was unable to give more details about the case.

The city of Lake Jackson, Texas, said in a statement Saturday that an unnamed 6-year-old boy had been hospitalized for "a rare and often fatal brain-eating amoeba."

Amebic meningoencephalitis (infection of the nervous system) due to 'Naegleria fowleri' parasites.Getty Images

"We are saddened by the death of Josiah McIntyre," Councilman Vinay Singhania told NBC News by email, "we are still investigating and testing."

The

Naegleria fowleri

is a microscopic single -

celled amoeba commonly found in fresh water and soil, according to

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC in English).

It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose, from where it travels to the brain, and can cause a disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.

The CDC says that people who swim in warm fresh water are the most common victims of the amoeba, which usually enters through the nose.

[A 10-year-old girl dies after contracting the brain-eating amoeba]

"You cannot get infected by swallowing water contaminated with

Naegleria

", they specify in the guide on parasites published on their website.

The city said it reduced the source of Josiah's amoeba after his family pointed to two possibilities: a water play area called the Splash Pad at the Lake Jackson Civic Center, and a hose for the house's grass.

CDC tests indicated that the water storage tank, as well as a fire hydrant, tested positive for the amoeba, the city said.

[Brain-eating amoeba kills man in North Carolina.

The victim was infected in a water park]

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued an advisory Friday night to stop Lake Jackson and seven other communities from using the water.

It was later lifted for everyone except Lake Jackson until the local water system could be flushed out and determined to be safe.

"If it came from the water system, it's a bit scary," Castillo said.

Josiah was a huge baseball fan and his favorite player was the

Houston Astros

shortstop

, said Carlos Correa, who, according to Castillo, sent his condolences to the family.

"He was a super active 6-year-old who loved to be outside and loved to play baseball," he recalled, "he loved the Houston Astros."

Contamination of public water systems in the country by the microbe is rare but not unheard of.

According to the CDC, the first

Naegleria fowleri

deaths

found in tap water from public treated drinking water systems occurred in southern Louisiana in 2011 and 2013.

Source: telemundo

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