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Water In Texas City Where Brain-Eating Amoeba Killed 6-Year-Old Josiah McIntyre Now Safe To Drink

LAKE JACKSON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Weeks after a brain-eating amoeba killed 6-year-old Josiah McIntyre a boil-water notice was issued for the city of Lake Jackson, Texas -- on Tuesday the tap water was deemed safe and that order was lifted.

In a statement, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Lake Jackson officials lifted the notice after disinfectant levels in the drinking water were documented to be above the state requirements. Also, water samples tested negative for harmful bacteria.

However, the TCEQ urged users of Lake Jackson's water to avoid getting it up their noses to reduce the risk of infection by the brain-eating microbe naegleria fowleri.

The boil-water notice was issued in late September after several days of flushing of the Brazosport Water Authority's water delivery system. The flushing was ordered after three of 11 samples of the Lake Jackson's water tested positive for the deadly flagellate. One sample came from the home of Josiah McIntyre.

The deadly amoeba does not cause an infection if it is in water that a person drinks as it is killed by normal levels of stomach acid. However, people can be infected when water containing the microbe enters the body through the nose

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a disaster declaration for Lake Jackson, has said all indications point to the case being isolated and that the suspected problem in the boy's death was traced back to a splash pad. The TCEQ said it and the city will conduct daily monitoring for the microbe going forward.

The Brazosport Water Authority initially warned eight communities on Sept. 25 not to use tap water for any reason except to flush toilets. It lifted that warning the next day for all communities but Lake Jackson, where the authority's water treatment plant is situated. The advisory also was canceled for two state prisons and Dow Chemical's massive Freeport works.

The ban was lifted in Lake Jackson on September 27 but replaced with the boil-water notice.

Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba, or single-celled living organism commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. From there it travels to the brain and can cause a rare and debilitating disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis.

The infection is usually fatal and typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places such as lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose.

"This is a terrible tragedy that made something that was rare, and even vanishingly rare, actually happen," said John Hellersedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Lake Jackson is about 55 miles south of Houston.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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