Have you heard about this problem in Louisiana? Usually scientific names sound scarier than the pathogen’s common name, but naegleria absolutely sounds better than anytime that we’re using “brain-eating” or “zombie” to describe a pathogen.
It does sort of underscore a bigger issue. Some of these pathogens are not actually dangerous in drinking water, but only in their airborne forms. Well, what about those of us using a neti pot?
The issue in Louisiana started a few years ago with deaths in 2011 and then again in 2013. Like we’re seeing with a flurry of boil alerts now, the broken mains have created secondary risks in the water distribution systems.
What’s actually odd about naegleria is that it is successfully treated with chlorine. Conversely, inadequately chlorinated pools and spas have been perfect breeding grounds for the parasite.
Part of the CDC‘s treatment recommendations include increased chlorination and filtration through a high-quality 1 micron filter . As we’ve discussed here before, that’s great for some things. But chlorine won’t really dent cryptosporidium.
There’s no perfect answer in life. We’ll always have some exposure in freshwater lakes and streams. However, if you are going to literally inhale water, just a thought…consider your options. Disinfection via ultraviolet light and filtration through our drinking systems would address most things in water…and I’m not so sure I’d want to count out 10 drops of bleach into the water I’m going to use in my neti pot.