Disaster Declared After Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Tap Water in Texas City

September 27, 2020 Updated: September 27, 2020

A Texas city was told not to drink tap water after a 6-year-old boy died from a brain-eating amoeba that was found in the water supply.

Residents of Lake Jackson, Texas, were informed of the development after the boy, identified as Josiah McIntyre, died of the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, after playing in the water.

“TCEQ and city officials are actively working on a plan to flush and disinfect the water system. Until the flushing and disinfecting process is complete, the city remains under the boil notice,” the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) said in a news release on Saturday. “During this period of disinfection and flushing, boiling the tap water makes it safe for drinking and cooking.”

The city subsequently issued a disaster declaration in response to the development, CBS News reported.

“The City of Lake Jackson, County of Brazoria, Texas, is facing significant threats to life, health and property due to contaminated drinking water,” the city said in its emergency request to Gov. Greg Abbott. “The impact of this threat is severe. The potential damages include: sickness and death.”

The boy got sick about a month ago, suffering from headaches, vomiting, and a fever, his grandparents told the Houston Chronicle. They later said doctors diagnosed him with the brain-eating amoeba infection.

“We just want people to be aware that it’s out there,” his grandmother, Natalie McIntyre, said on Saturday. “If you’ve been exposed or possibly exposed and you experience those symptoms, get to a hospital and let somebody know.”

The TECQ agency warned:

  • Do not allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when bathing, showering, washing your face, or swimming.
  • Do not jump into or put your head under bathing water.
  • Do not allow children to play with hoses, sprinklers, or any toy or device that may accidentally squirt water up the nose.
  • Do run bath and shower taps and hoses for 5 minutes before use to flush out the pipes.
  • 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 keep swimming pools 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; and
    • Hot tubs/spas: free chlorine 2-4 parts per million (ppm) or free bromine 4-6 ppm and pH 7.2-7.8.