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Brain-Eating Bug Enters US Water Supply
A deadly, brain-eating amoeba has been found in the water supply in Louisiana.
The amoeba - Naegleria fowleri - was found in water tested in the Violet and Arabi communities in Louisiana, outside New Orleans.
It is believed to be the first time the parasite has been identified in a US water supply, but health officials say that it is still safe to drink.
The discovery follows the bug-linked deaths last month of an unidentified four-year-old boy from Mississippi and 12-year-old Zachary Reyna from Florida.
A third child, 12-year-old Kali Hardig from Arkansas, survived the infection in July.
Experts have tried to reassure residents in Louisiana by saying that the only danger lies in people getting the microscopic organism up their noses.
Its only entry to the brain is through tiny openings in a bone about level with the top of the eyeball, said Dr Raoult Ratard, Louisiana's state epidemiologist.
Fellow epidemiologist Jonathan Yoder said Naegleria has never before been found in water treated by a US water system.
There have been 132 documented infections from the amoeba since 1962, almost all of them fatal, health officials say.
Two infections in Louisiana, in 2011, came after people used tap water to flush out their sinuses.
In both those cases, Mr Yoder said the amoeba was found in a home's hot water system - but not in municipal water or water coming from the home's cold water tap.
Despite the reassurances, the news has sparked fear in the Violet and Arabi communities.
"Nobody's washing their faces in the showers anymore. Nobody's drinking the water," resident Angela Miller said.
"My neighbour has a pool that they have emptied. And they have no water in there now until this matter is cleared up."
That's not necessary, experts say. Stomach acids, boiling and chlorine will all kill the amoeba.
Investigators say they may never know just how Naegleria got into the pipes.