Child dies from brain-eating amoeba infection

St. Bernard Parish, La. - A 4-year-old child from Mississippi was visiting a St. Bernard Parish home back in July when the child was infected with a brain-eating amoeba.  The child died in August.

"The child contracted it by playing for a very long period of time on a slip n' slide in the front yard of the residence they were visiting," says Parish President Dave Peralta.

Dr. Fred Lopez from the LSU Health and Sciences Center says the amoeba is found in fresh water and he says the infection is very rare.

"On average there are about three to four cases a year, but we know that if we sample bodies of water, especially in Louisiana, we are going to find that organism present. Still, few people are developing the infection," says Dr. Lopez.

People cannot contract the infection by drinking contaminated water. "This water has to go through the nose and make its way to the brain to cause this type of infection," says Dr. Lopez.

Once infected, there's a 99 percent mortality rate.

President Peralta says federal, state and local officials immediately began testing the water inside of the home where the child was visiting. "They did find an indication of the parasite in the tank of the toilet in the house and in one of the water lines," says Peralta.

While the water samples at the house were positive, Peralta says several tests were done on the water system in St. Bernard Parish, but he says those tests were negative for the organisms.

"We're continuing to do what's called a burn. We will introduce a little bit larger amounts of chlorine into the water. It's just a precautionary measure. Again, nothing was found in the actual water supply," says Peralta.

People can notice symptoms about five days after contracting a brain-eating amoeba. Those symptoms include headaches, fever and nausea.

Advanced states of the problem will include a stiff neck, confusion and hallucinations.