City where boy, 6, died of brain-eating amoeba to purge water system for 60 days

A Houston-area city where a 6-year-old boy died of a brain-eating amoeba will purge its water system for 60 days to ensure it is safe for residents.

The death earlier this month of Josiah McIntyre of Lake Jackson, Texas, from the deadly microbe prompted an investigation that preliminarily identified the amoeba in three of 11 water samples taken in the city.

Now, the local water utility is trying to purge any “old water” so the system can be disinfected and replaced with fresh water.

“We’ll be doing that for a 60-day period,” said City Manager Modesto Mundo of the community of about 26,000 residents 55 miles south of Houston.

Lake Jackson residents were initially warned over the weekend not to use tap water for anything but flushing toilets, but are now being advised to boil tap water before using it for drinking or cooking and to avoid getting tap water up the nose.

Naegleria fowleri “usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose” and typically occurs when people go swimming in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance on its website. “Once the ameba enters the nose, it travels to the brain,” where it causes a condition that is usually fatal.

“You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria,” the CDC said.

Josiah’s mother, Maria Castillo, said her son, “a super-active 6-year-old who loved to be outside” and adored the Houston Astros, initially showed flu-like symptoms that quickly worsened to the point that he had trouble standing and communicating.

“We found out that it was, most likely, this amoeba that was causing all of these symptoms,” Castillo said.

Doctors took measures to alleviate swelling in the child’s brain and tried to save him. But Josiah died on Sept. 8 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

The family told city officials of two possible places where Josiah may have been exposed to the naegleria fowleri microbe, a city splash pad and the hose at the family’s home.

Mundo said testing of 11 samples of the city’s water found three with preliminary positive results for the microbe — in a storage tank for the splash pad, a dead-end fire hydrant downtown near the splash pad, and in the hose bib at Josiah’s home.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Sunday for Brazoria County in response to the discovery of the deadly parasite.

“The state of Texas is taking swift action to respond to the situation and support the communities whose water systems have been impacted” by this amoeba, said a statement by the governor, who is scheduled to give an update on the matter Tuesday.

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