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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues disaster declaration after brain-eating amoeba reportedly kills 6-year-old boy



Image source: CBS News video screenshot

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a disaster declaration after the discovery of a brain-eating amoeba in a Lake Jackson water supply.

The brain-eating amoeba — naegleria fowleri — is reportedly responsible for the death of a six-year-old boy in the area.

What are the details?

According to CBS News, Abbott issued the disaster declaration on Sunday, and it extends to Brazoria County at large.

A portion of Abbott's disaster declaration states that "the presence of naegleria fowleri, which can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, was identified in three of 11 tests of the water supply, posing an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life."

"Any regulatory statute ... that would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with this disaster shall be suspended," the declaration adds.

Residents are under a "boil water" notice at the time of this reporting.

The organism typically infects people through contaminated water entering the nose. Naegleria fowleri can cause fatal cases of amoebic meningoencephalitis.

KHOU-TV reports that the six-year-old boy likely caught the infection from a public splash pad or a garden hose, and the subsequent tests on the water supply confirmed the presence of the amoeba in the Lake Jackson water supply.

On Friday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced the potential contamination, warning at least eight communities away from using their tap water except for toilet flushing.

On Saturday, the commission lifted the warnings for all impacted cities in Brazoria save for Lake Jackson.

The city's mayor, Bob Sipple, announced on Saturday his own disaster declaration, which activated the local Emergency Operations Center and permitted officials to acquire the necessary additional resources from the state.

You can watch CBS News' video report on the announcement here.

According to KHOU, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is working with the City of Lake Jackson, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve the ongoing water issue.

In a statement, Abbott said, "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 ameba [sic]. 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."

What about the little boy?

KTVT-TV reported that the child, Josiah Christopher McIntyre, was very ill prior to his untimely death.

His mother, Maria Castillo, said, "Friday it was vomiting and throwing up and still the headache, but I mean kids get sick. It's normal. Kids vomit. Kids run a fever."

The child's family initially worried that Josiah — who had played at a local splash pad — was infected with COVID-19, but he tested negative for the virus just a day later.

On Sunday, the family took the child to Texas Children's Hospital, which administered a CT scan that showed swelling of the six-year-old's brain.

The child died on Sept. 8, and doctors later determined that his brain swelled due to naegleria fowleri.

Castillo says she still wants to know precisely how her son contracted the amoeba.

"We want to know as a family, you know, for a peace of mind," she told the station. "It won't bring him back. It probably won't make us feel better. But the fact that we know how he got it, how he contracted it, just gives us that peace of mind that we can that we know."

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