- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

STERLINGTON, La. (AP) - More than 300 people gathered in Sterlington to hear from state and local officials about a potentially deadly amoeba found in their drinking water.

Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Don Coker told the group that water fountains were turned off and 4,000 bottles of drinking water were stocked Wednesday at the town’s three schools, The News-Star (https://tnsne.ws/1XkCsnf) reported.

The amoeba is dangerous only if it gets high up the nose, to the skull’s opening for olfactory nerves, health officials have said. The water is safe to drink, they said.

State Medical Officer Jimmy Guidry said Wednesday that there have been few cases of the brain-eating amoeba, but there’s a 95 percent chance of death if one is infected.

“The amoeba has been here all our lives. It is not new to our environment. You can’t prove where it came into the system, but it is in the system,” he said.



Guidry said it will take 60 days of elevated chlorine levels, called a “chlorine burn,” to ensure that it is gone.

People with swimming pools should make sure they’re well chlorinated, said Kathy Kliebert, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

The private North Monroe Water System is the fourth where the amoeba has been found this year.

Health officials took questions submitted in writing before the meeting. People asked whether pets were safe and why the public was not notified immediately.

“We found out about this yesterday and we made sure our tests were accurate,” Guidry said. “We shared it with the water system and shared what we could through electronic media. … I don’t know how we could have done it faster because it takes a while to get the test results.”

He said pets are not likely to be affected, but there’s no guarantee they won’t be.

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Information from: The News-Star, https://www.thenewsstar.com

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