MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) - A rare but deadly brain-destroying amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, was found in a parish water supply in Louisiana, causing both local and nationwide panic, NBC News reported Friday.
"If it gets in your brain, then you're hosed," said Dr. Clayton Wiley, director of the division of neuropathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was quoted saying by NBC News.
The dangerous amoeba was discovered in a Louisiana water system that serves 12,577 people.
The deadly infection caused by the organism called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is rare according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Although PAM has only been reported in 132 people in the US since 1962, there were only three survivors.
"If you had it live under a microscope, you can watch it wander around and absolutely destroy cells," Dr. Wiley said.
"It's extremely aggressive. It ravages brain tissue, and that's why it's earned the very graphic name 'brain-eating.' It's just a bad situation all around," the doctor added.
The amoeba thrives in warm fresh water such as swimming holes and lakes, and while stomach acid kills any swallowed water containing the amoeba, nasal entry can be deadly. If infected water enters the nose it can travel via the olfactory nerve up to the brain, CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson explained to NBC News.
Early symptoms of PAM mirror that of a cold or flu, allowing the amoeba to ravage the brain virtually undetected until it is too late.
According to CDC statistics, 84 percent of the 132 reported infections in the United States between 1962 and 2013 occurred in children under the age of 18.
Louisiana state officials started a two-month flushing process on the infected water on Thursday, and claim the water is still safe to drink. There have been no illnesses or deaths traced to the amoeba so far.