Shortly after playing at a splash park near their home, a 6-year-old fell ill and eventually passed away after being infected with a brain-eating amoeba that was later discovered in his community’s water supply.
According to the Houston Chronicle, 6-year-old Josiah McIntyre’s symptoms started with fever, headaches, and vomiting. When his condition worsened, he was admitted into the intensive care unit of Texas Children’s Hospital where he was tested for strep infection and COVID-19. Doctors were unable to find the cause and it was too late when they realized it could be an infection from an amoeba that eats the brain.
The boy’s death prompted Texas Governor Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration in Lake Jackson, Texas after testing revealed traces of the amoeba in the tap of the garden hose at his home. “Traces were also found in a fountain in the town center and in a fire hydrant in a town just one hour away from the major city of Houston,” said Modesto Mundo, a city official in an article by Reportr.
The microbe “enters the body through the nasal membranes and penetrates to the brain,” according to Reportr. It then causes amebic meningoencephalitis, which destroys brain tissue and causes swelling of the brain,according to the CDC. Symptoms include migraine, hyperthermia, stiff neck and vomiting, dizziness, and extreme fatigue. It can also cause confusion and hallucinations.
CBS News reports that environment officials are asking Lake Jackson residents to boil tap water before drinking as they flush and disinfect the city’s water system. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also advised residents to avoid getting water into their nose while bathing, showering, swimming, and washing their face.