HOUSTON, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Almost 30,000 residents in southeast Texas are under strict orders to boil their water before using it. This comes after a 6-year-old boy died earlier this month after contracting a rare, brain-eating amoeba from the local water source.
It’s a freshwater parasite that is found around the world. It’s called Naegleria fowleri and it’s deadly, with a fatality rate higher than 97 percent. Its latest victim is Josiah McIntyre, just south of Houston.
Maria Castillo says her son likely contracted the amoeba from a local splash pad or the garden hose at their home in Lake Jackson. A sudden spurt of symptoms that started with a headache at home ended with brain seizures and strokes in the hospital.
After five days, Josiah passed away. An enthusiastic lover of baseball, the Houston Astros lost their biggest little fan.
His death and positive samples from the health department sent into motion a Do Not Use water advisory for eight area counties. That warning is now just a boil order for Lake Jackson. On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in response.
Josiah’s story is uncommon. According to the CDC, from 1962 to 2018, there were 145 known cases—only four people survived.
“I’m lucky to be alive,” said Kali Hardig, an Arkansas girl who lived after battling the brain-eating amoeba for 55 days.
Her story made waves in 2013—putting the invisible microbe on the map.
“It’s usually when people are splashing in the water, if they’re going to be diving, if they’re going to be tubing, anything that’s going to forcefully push water up your nose,” said Lou Kreidler, director of health with the Wichita Falls Health Department.
A few years ago with a different case, superintendent of Texas’ Lake Arrowhead Keith Gauthier had this warning:
“Stagnant water on warm days when there’s no waves or wind, and the water’s very hot in temperature, avoid those areas,” said Gauthier. “And also another thing you could possibly do to avoid contracting this is to wear a nose clip, or plug your nose whenever you go under water.”
Josiah’s mother says her biggest message to other families is to be aware of the symptoms—headache, fever, vomiting and altered mental state. She said it’s rare, but it’s real and it happens.