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Brain-eating amoeba found on the water supply of a Texas town

The Texas governor released a disaster statement Sunday for a Gulf Coast county where a 6-year-old boy died after being infected with a brain-eating amoeba and the organism was found in the water supply.

In early September, Brazoria County health officials alerted the city of Lake Jackson, Texas, about 90 miles south of Houston, about a boy hospitalized with amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. The organism is typically found in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, and people are exposed when it enters the body through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It travels from the nose to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue.

The boy’s family believed he was exposed to the single-celled organism from a water pipe at his home or from a city waterslide, where water gushes from the ground, city officials said in a press release. The city closed the splash pad and more tests were conducted with the help of the C.D.C. and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Three of the 11 samples collected were “preliminary positive”. Those samples came from a “downtown dead end fire hydrant”, a “splash pad storage tank” and the boy’s “house bib”, according to the city.

Friday night, the Brazosport Water Authority released a warning not to use water for eight cities in Texas, under the direction of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The warning was lifted in all cities except Lake Jackson on Saturday, and Jackson Lake Mayor Bob Sipple issued a disaster statement.

“The impact of this threat is severe,” the mayor said in an emergency request to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. “The potential harms include: disease and death.”

Later, Saturday night, the warning was lifted by the city, but officials have placed a boil notice in force. Over the weekend, Lake Jackson residents flocked to grocery stores, stocking up on water bottles in light of city notices.

People cannot be infected by drinking water containing amoeba, according to the C.D.C.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommends that people avoid water-related activities and remain vigilant for water entering the nose while bathing. The the agency said it was working with city officials “on a plan to wash and disinfect the water system.”

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