Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday issued a disaster declaration for Brazoria County after Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba, was found in the water supply of the city of Lake Jackson in the greater Houston metropolitan area.
“You don’t hear about this stuff until it happens to you. You don’t think you’ll be that 1 in 72 million until it happens to you,” Maria Castillo, the mother of the boy who died after contracting a brain infection caused by the amoeba, wrote in a recent Facebook post.
The single-celled organism is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, and it usually infects people when it enters the body through the nose, traveling up to the brain where it causes a rare and often deadly infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although infections from Naegleria fowleri are rare, the fatality rate is over 97%. Only four people out of 145 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2018 have survived, according to the CDC.
Officials in Lake Jackson launched an investigation into the local water supply after they were notified about the boy’s case in early September. His family had indicated two possible water sources in Lake Jackson were the boy could have been exposed to the amoeba, a city splash pad and a hose at his home.
Tests on the water at these and other locations detected Naegleria fowleri in three of 11 samples, according to a statement from the city.
Officials are urging Lake Jackson residents to boil tap water for drinking and cooking.