Routine drinking water testing by the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri, an ameba that occurs naturally in freshwater, in Ouachita Parish’s North Monroe Water System and Terrebonne Parish’s Schriever Water System.
The tap water is safe for residents to drink, but the Department urges residents to avoid getting water in their noses.
The Louisiana Department of Health notified the water system and local officials Thursday afternoon. The Department asked the water system to convert the disinfection method to the free chlorine method for a period of 60 days to ensure that any remaining ameba in the system are eliminated.
The Louisiana Department of Health has routinely tested for this ameba since 2015. The Department conducts sampling of public drinking water systems for Naegleria fowleri each summer when temperatures rise, and has collected a total of 540 samples for this ameba since 2013.
Naegleria fowleri causes a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. In its early stages, symptoms of PAM may be similar to bacterial meningitis.
Precautionary Measures for Families
According to the CDC, every resident can take simple steps to help reduce their risk of Naegleria fowleri infection. Individuals should focus on limiting the amount of water going up their nose. Preventative measures recommended by the CDC include the following:
- 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 into the water.
- 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 five 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.
- If you need to manually top off the water in your swimming pool with tap water, follow the guidance below.
- DO ensure that the filter is running and top off your pool by adding water directly into the skimmer box. The hose should not be submerged into the skimmer box or pool water. Hold the end of your hose in the air at least two inches above the flood-level rim of the skimmer box. This can be accomplished by securing the hose to a heavy object such as a chair or cinder block above the skimmer and ensuring the hose will run into the skimmer box without the hose being submerged.
- DO NOT top off your pool by submerging the hose in the body of the pool.
- DO keep your swimming pool or hot tub adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection standards are listed below.
- For pools, keep pH levels from 7.2 to 7.8. If you are using cyanuric acid-free chlorine, use between two and 10 parts per million. If you are not using cyanuric acid-free chlorine, keep chlorine levels at one to three parts per million.
- For hot tubs and spas, keep pH levels from 7.2 to 7.8, and keep either free chlorine levels from two to four parts per million or free bromine levels from four to six parts per million.
Residents should continue these precautions until testing no longer confirms the presence of the ameba in the water system. The water system will notify residents when that occurs. For more information, visit http://www.ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/1696.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.ldh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account, Facebook and blog.