Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) met with the family of Josiah McIntyre Tuesday, the 6-year-old Lake Jackson boy whom doctors say died earlier this month after being infected with a brain-eating parasite.
McIntyre is believed to have died after being infected by the naegleria fowleri microbe, a very rare deadly, microscopic parasite that appears to have contaminated the city's water supply.
"As a governor, as a human being, one of the things I wish I had he ability to do was to wave a magic wand and suddenly allow a lost child to reappear, to reunite with their parents," Abbott said. "There literally are no words that can describe the sadness that goes along with the loss of a child."
The investigation into the boy's death led to the detection of the brain-eating amoeba after heath officials conducted water sample tests.
Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said Monday that three of 11 samples of the city's water indicated preliminary positive results for the microbe, including one sample taken at the family's residence.
Maria Castillo, Josiah's mother, said Monday that her son first started showing flu-like symptoms. But those quickly worsened to the point where he had trouble standing and communicating.
"We found out that it was, most likely this amoeba that was causing all of these symptoms," Castillo said outside her home, in front of a yard sign that showed a picture of her son.
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Doctors took measures to alleviate swelling in the child's brain and tried to save him, but ultimately the boy succumbed to the parasite.
"My ask of this community is that everyone will join in … to strengthen the family that's lost a child," Abbott said. "This is a total tragedy."
Abbott said he was using the full power of the state to get to the bottom of what happened to the city's water supply, to take corrective action and to make sure that it never happens again.
Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said Tuesday that the Brazosport Water Authority is safe and that there was no reason to believe there was any problem with the water there or the distribution there. The authority's water source is the Brazos River, and it stores the water in two reservoirs.
Baker added that they performed 54 samples at Lake Jackson's water and found 11 sites with residuals below disinfection levels.
The findings at BWA and Lake Jackson made the TCEQ comfortable focusing on the city as the source of the amoeba, Baker said.
Baker said the process to rectify the issue for the citizens of Lake Jackson will not be short. They first must get through the boil water notice, which will take 2-3 weeks, after that chlorine levels must be raised to scour the system and kill the amoebas. Baker said that may take an additional 60 days and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will assist in testing the water at that point.
Baker added, to his knowledge, the amoeba has never shown up in a public drinking water system in Texas before.
Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba, or single-celled living organism commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. From there it travels to the brain and can cause a rare and debilitating disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis.
The infection is usually fatal and typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places such as lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose.