Concerned DeSoto residents question DHH about brain eating amoeba

DESOTO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Residents packed Salem Baptist Church Thursday night to hear what the Department of Health and Hospitals had to say about the rare and deadly amoeba floating around in the Parish's water system.

This week, a deadly organism was discovered in five locations in Desoto Parish Waterworks District Number 1. Health officials say the brain-eating amoeba is rare and can kill within a matter of 1 to 12 days.

Nearly 200 people showed up with plenty of questions to the meeting to learn more about amoeba scientifically known as "Naegleria Fowleri". At least 13 local and state officials were on hand to answer questions including Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the DHH state health officer. "It [the amoeba] is not something everyone is familiar with so we want to share as much information as we can," Dr. Guidry said and getting information is exactly why Stonewall resident Sharon Butler attended the meeting.

"I'm so concerned, I'm thinking about washing my face with bottled water, because I'm afraid of what's really going on with our water," Butler explained and added she didn't let her grand babies take a bath last night, because she wants to hear all the facts first. "I want to know what can we do and how to protect ourselves," said Butler.

Stonewall resident Gladys Harvey also attended the meeting because she has concerns about drinking the water. "If you get choked or a small child does and it flushes back into their sinuses, that could potentially be a problem, you would think," said Harvey.

But state leaders like Guidry say the most important thing they wanted to emphasize, is for people not to panic, "It's perfectly safe, unless the water gets way up their nose, the water has to get in the nose to where it burns to get next to the brain to cause infection," he said.

Scientists and engineers explained to the crowd, drinking the water and showering is safe as long as it doesn't go up the nose.  DHH recommends putting 8 drops of unscented bleach per gallon in bathtubs and kiddie pools. They also advise watching children very closely in the bath tub and not letting them dunk their heads in the water.

The Water Works System No. 1 is flushing out their lines and DHH recommends residents continue to use precautions until extensive testing no longer detects the amoeba in the water system. DHH assures residents they will be made aware when that occurs.

Click here for a list of precautionary measures.

Copyright 2013 KSLA. All rights reserved.