Residents of Lake Jackson, Texas, are currently under a boil water advisory

By Ashley Boucher
September 30, 2020 07:07 PM
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Naegleria fowleri
| Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Residents of Lake Jackson, Texas, will likely be dealing with contaminated water for several weeks, officials said Tuesday.

Weeks after 6-year-old Josiah McIntyre died from being infected with Naegleria fowleri, a rare brain-eating amoeba that has been found in the water supply of Brazoria County, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared in a state of disaster over the weekend.

On Wednesday, Abbott and other state health officials spoke at a news conference about the ongoing situation.

Executive Director of Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, Toby Baker, said that though his department is working around the clock to "remedy the problem," it will take time for the amoeba to be eradicated from the water supply.

"We have to get through the boil water first, which could take two to three weeks, after that we have to get chlorine levels to a state that can burn the entire system, scour the system and kill the amoebas," Baker said, per CNN, which he added "could take up to an additional 60 days."

A Boil Water Notice was put into effect in Lake Jackson on Saturday and will remain in effect until the flushing and disinfection process is complete.

Abbott said on Tuesday that the loss of Josiah — who died on September 8, two days after being admitted to Houston's Texas Children's Hospital — will not be in vain.

"The most I could do with his family was to assure them that his life was not lost in vain," the governor said, CNN reported. "This is a total tragedy for Josiah as well as his family, but we as leaders in the state of Texas must seize upon the strategy to make sure this never happens again."

Gov. Greg Abbott
| Credit: Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP

Abbott also acknowledged the conjunction of the water's infection with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"At a time when COVID exists and lives are already disrupted, the last thing these people in Lake Jackson need is this additional burden of not having access to the water they need," he said at the press conference. "The state of Texas is going to be using every state agency that has any connection whatsoever with regard to responding to this catastrophe to make sure that they are available 24/7 to work with local leaders."

The Texas Division of Emergency Management has set up a point of distribution for Lake Jackson residents to pick up free water bottles every day, the governor's office said in a press release Tuesday.

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, but most are fatal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Initial symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, while later symptoms that occur before death include seizures, hallucinations, and coma.

Between 1962 and 2018, 145 people were infected with Naegleria fowleri and only four survived, according to the CDC.