Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic ameba that can cause a fatal brain infection, was responsible for the September death of a 6 year-old-boy in Lake Jackson Texas.

After the boy’s death, water samples from the city’s splash pad storage tank, a fire hydrant and a hose bib at the boy’s home tested positive for the ameba. The Brazosport Water Authority issued a Do Not Use water advisory on September 25, which was lifted and replaced by a boil order the next day. Lake Jackson is located about 50 miles south of Houston and has about 27,000 residents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Naegleria fowleri usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose while swimming or diving in warm freshwater sources such as lakes and rivers. The ameba then travels from the nose to the brain, causing brain swelling and death. You cannot get infected by drinking water contaminated with Naegleria.

In addition to lakes and rivers, Naegleria fowleri can also grow in pipes, hot water heaters, and water systems, including treated public drinking water systems, according to the CDC.

Stories like this are a good reminder of the vast array of threats lurking in our nation’s water.

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