Texas officials on Tuesday said it could take two to three months to disinfect the water in Lake Jackson after a brain-eating amoeba killed a 6-year-old. Officials stressed, however, that becoming infected with the amoeba is rare.
“The path forward for the citizens of Lake Jackson is not going to be one that’s short,” Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executive director Toby Baker said at a press conference. “We have to get through the boil water first, which could take two to three weeks, after that we have to get chlorine levels to a state that can burn the entire system, scour the system, and kill the amoebas. That could take up to an additional 60 days.”
Baker added that the CDC has said it will test the city’s water once the process is complete to make sure it’s safe. He also said agencies will check to make sure unfiltered water isn’t entering the water system in areas the city is unaware of.
Baker and other officials, including Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, said water in surrounding areas is safe. Abbott also said that “all information points to this being isolated.”
Josiah McIntyre died earlier this month after being infected with the brain-eating parasite Naegleria fowleri. McIntyre’s mother said he became ill with flu-like symptoms first, but his condition soon deteriorated to the point where he was having trouble standing and communicating, CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reports.
Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Sunday after testing found the brain-eating amoeba in the water supply.
On Saturday, environmental officials lifted a warning for Lake Jackson to stop using tap water because it might be tainted with a deadly brain-eating microbe, but warned the water should be boiled before being consumed. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also advised residents to prevent water from getting into their nose when bathing, showering, swimming and washing their face.
Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner John Hellerstedt said Tuesday that the disease that killed McIntyre is rare, and that the only way to get it so to have infected water go up into your sinuses “and basically then lodge there at the top of the sinuses and work its way from there through a membrane … that goes into the brain.”
“There is no other way to get it,” he said. “You cannot get that infection from drinking the water.”