Brain-eating amoeba kills a 6-year-old boy in Texas, prompting officials to test the water supply to 8 cities

  • Brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri killed Josiah McIntyre, 6, of Lake Jackson, Texas, on Sept. 8.
  • His case prompted officials to issue a "Do Not Use Water Advisory" for eight cities while the water supply was tested. This advisory has been lifted, but residents are asked to boil water and exercise caution.
  • Josiah McIntyre's mother, Maria Castillo, described being "angry and upset and sad and heartbroken." But, she said, "the fact that we know how he got it, how he contracted it, gives us peace of mind."
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The death of a 6-year-old boy alerted Texas officials to the presence of a brain-eating amoeba in their water supply.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has issued a water advisory to residents of eight cities that are served by the Brazosport Water Authority, according to CNN. People were warned not to ingest any water because it contained a deadly microscopic organism called Naegleria fowleri.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this amoeba can be traced to soil and warm freshwater, which includes rivers, hot springs, and lakes, as well as insufficiently chlorinated swimming pools and heated tap water.

Contaminated water typically enters a body via the nose, per the CDC. Naegleria fowleri then travels to the brain, triggering a fatal infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

CNN reported that this incident began on Sept. 8 when authorities in Lake Jackson, Texas, were informed of Josiah McIntyre's hospitalization and death.

Tests revealed that the brain-eating amoeba was in a water hose at the boy's house as well as at a splash pad at the civic center in Lake Jackson, which issued a disaster declaration.

"He was an active little boy. He was a really good big brother. He just loved and cared about a lot of people," his mother, Maria Castillo said, according to KTRK-TV, a local ABC station.

Local authorities joined the CDC, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to test the water supply.

Three out of 11 samples tested positive for Naegleria fowleri on Sept. 25, per CNN. The "Do Not Use Water" Advisory has been lifted for all Brazosport Water Authority users, but Lake Jackson residents are asked to boil water before consuming it, TCEQ announced on Twitter alongside other precautionary measures. 

Josiah's mother, Maria Castillo, said at a benefit for him over the weekend that he was an active little boy. "He was a really good big brother. He just loved and cared about a lot of people," she said.

Naegleria fowleri infections are infrequent but mostly fatal, the CDC said. The agency recorded 145 cases between 1962 and 2018, and only four of those people survived.

Castillo said she took solace in knowing what led to her child's death, according to KTRK-TV.

"I'm angry and upset and sad and heartbroken," she said. "It really means a lot to me because we want to know as a family for peace of mind. I know it doesn't bring him back. The fact that we know how he got it, how he contracted it, gives us peace of mind."

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