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Texas declares disaster

While the world was just recovering from the worst-hit pandemic in 2020 and yet before the year even ends, a new deadly disease has come to light in the Gulf coast community in Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in Brazoria County on Sunday after the discovery in the local water supply system of an amoeba that can cause a rare and deadly infection of the brain. A 6-year-old boy, the resident of Texas, stocked up on bottled water after the city released an advisory about the water supply. He died in the Gulf Coast community after being infected by an organism that enters the nose and travels to the brain.

“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,” Abbott (R) in a news release Sunday. “I urge Texans in Lake Jackson to follow the guidance of local officials and take the appropriate precautions to protect their health and safety as we work to restore safe tap water in the community,” he said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) urged people to avoid water going up the nose when bathing, showering or swimming and prohibited children from playing with hoses, sprinklers or any device that may squirt water up the nose. It also advised running bath and shower taps and hoses for several minutes before use and boiling tap water before drinking. “Naegleria fowleri is a type of amoeba that can be managed using the standard treatment and disinfection processes,” a statement from the commission said. The boy got infected by a brain-eating amoeba and the organism of which was found in the water supply. The officials said it was working with city officials “on a plan to flush and disinfect the water system.”

The first documented death associated with exposure to water from a U.S.-treated public drinking water system happened in 2013 in Louisiana, according to a report by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Most cases documented in the United States have occurred in children and adolescents. The yearly number of cases ranges from zero to eight, the C.D.C. reports.

The boy’s family believed he had been exposed to the single-celled organism, from a water hose at his home or from a city splash pad, where water spurts up from the ground, city officials said in a news release. The city closed the splash pad, and multiple tests were conducted with help from the C.D.C. and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

During the month of September, Brazoria County health officials alerted the city of Lake Jackson, Texas, about 56 miles south of Houston, about a boy who was hospitalized with the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. The doctors found that the organism is typically found in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, and people are exposed when it enters the body through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three of the 11 samples collected tested “preliminary positive.” Those samples were from a “dead end-fire hydrant downtown,” a “splash pad storage tank” and the boy’s “home hose bib,” according to the city.

“The impact of this threat is severe,” the mayor said in an emergency request to Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas. “The potential damages include sickness and death.” Mr Abbott released a disaster declaration Sunday afternoon for Brazoria County, which encompasses Lake Jackson. The designation authorizes the use of additional state resources to deal with the emergency.

Brian McGovern, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the danger from the amoeba comes from water entering the body through the nose. “If it gets up into the nose, that can cause a rare but lethal infection,” Mr McGovern said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommended people avoid water-related activities and remain vigilant to water going into the nose while bathing.

Even though the Texas government is taking various precautions along with some damage control activities, the question remains, is the world ready for this if the disease spreads?

By Karishma Gwalani

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