Texas Governor Declares Disaster After Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in City’s Water

September 28, 2020 Updated: September 28, 2020

The governor of Texas declared a disaster after a brain-eating amoeba that killed a 6-year-old boy was found in a city’s water supply.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday declared a disaster (pdf) in Brazoria County and said that of 11 water tests conducted in the county, three found N. fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba. That is now “posing an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life,” he said.

“A proclamation certifying the presence of Naegleria fowleri, which can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, was identified in the water supply in Brazoria County; and declaring a state of disaster,” his order said.

“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 said in a news release on Sept. 26. “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 Abbott. “The impact of this threat is severe. The potential damages include: sickness and death.”

The boy, Josiah McIntyre, 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 Sept. 26. “If you’ve been exposed or possibly exposed and you experience those symptoms, get to a hospital and let somebody know.”

“He was an active little boy,” Josiah’s mother, Maria Castillo, told KTRK-TV. “He was a really good big brother. He just loved and cared about a lot of people.”

His relatives said he was tested for COVID-19, strep throat, and other diseases, according to the Chronicle.

Residents of Lake Jackson were told by the agency to boil their water before using it after the organism was found in their water system. A previous warning that extended to other areas in Brazoria County called on residents to not use tap water at all but that warning was later lifted. The boil advisory is in effect for Lake Jackson.