DHH: Miss. child dies from parasite while in St. Bernard

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that a child from Mississippi died after contracting a brain-eating disease from a contaminated water supply while visiting a home in St. Bernard Parish.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said Thursday that the child contracted encephalitis from water contaminated by Naegleria fowleri amoeba, and that while the home tested positive for the rare contaminant, additional tests of the parish water supply tested negative for the amoeba.

Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane said, “We are working with the parish to make sure precautionary measures are being taken while we await additional test results on samples taken from the area’s water system.”

Testing of the parish’s water supply will continue.

“The CDC’s testing detected no evidence of the parasite, however, out of abundance of caution, steps were taken immediately to continue to ensure a safe water supply in St. Bernard Parish,” Parish President David Peralta said. “We will continue enhanced monitoring and testing of the water supply.”

The parish began flushing out its water supply with chlorine on Thursday, warning residents that tap water may taste different and appear slightly discolored, the DHH release says.

Throughout the testing phases, the water will remain safe to drink, because Naegleria fowleri cannot be contracted by drinking water, according to DHH.

Naegleria fowleri causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue, according to DHH.

The initial symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck, while later symptoms may include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations, the news release says.

Once symptoms appear, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days.

Most people who contract the disease — which totaled 32 from 2001 to 2010 nationwide — do so after swimming in warm, freshwater bodies of water and ingesting contaminated water through their noses.

This marks the third Naegleria fowleri-related death in Louisiana since 2011, the news release says.