DESOTO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Health officials say the deadly brain-eating amoeba Naegleria Fowleri is rare, but it's killed before in DeSoto Parish.
It's the same amoeba that caused the August death of a child in south Louisiana, and according to the Louisiana Department of Health and hospitals, it has been found in five locations in the DeSoto Parish Waterworks District No. 1, which is one of 14 water systems in the parish.
The Naegleria Fowler amoeba can cause death within 1 to 12 days from infection, according to the LA DHH. As for how it might have gotten into the water system, "Our working theory is that it would have to have been something after it has been treated at the plant," says J.C. Lane, the Assistant Secretary for Health with the DHH.
It's not the first time the amoeba has been found in the very same water system. "2 years ago, my husband's aunt, Dianne, used a netti pot and she used tap water in her netti pot," says Elizabeth Pickett. "She was at home and she lives in Desoto Parish in Water District 1."
Her aunt's kitchen sink and water heater tested positive for the amoeba. The autopsy showed that amoeba was the cause of her death. "She had a really bad headache, she was vomiting, and it just continued to get worse until they took her and immediately put her into ICU," Pickett says.
Those symptoms exactly mimic the ones a 14-year-old Shreveport boy died from after wake boarding in Cross Lake in 2010. "Exactly a week later, he started complaining of a head ache," recalls Will Matthews' mother, Tyree. "Tuesday morning he woke up and was vomiting. Within about 30 minutes of waiting at the emergency room, he was already confused, didn't know his name, it was Sunday to Sunday, 7 days."
The Matthews say the amoeba isn't as rare as the CDC and DHH claim. That is because the government is not counting deaths like Will's. "They are going by doctors documented cases, well the problem is is that you've got these undocumented cases, where we know, without shadow of a doubt that's what he had," Matthews says.
Topping the list of safety precautions suggested by health officials: Remember to keep your head above water. The amoeba gets to the brain through the nose. Do not get the water in your nose. The DHH says the water is safe to drink.