Swimmer dies after contracting rare brain-eating amoeba at NC water park

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A person died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba from a water park in North Carolina, according to the state’s health department.

The person got sick after swimming at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12.

Samples sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the person’s illness was caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater.

“Our sympathies are with the family and loved ones,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D. “People should be aware that this organism is present in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs across North Carolina, so be mindful as you swim or enjoy water sports.” 

BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Naegleria fowleri can be fatal if forced up the nose, like during various water activities. The amoeba does not cause illness if swallowed.

Local health officials are working with Fantasy Lake Water Park on how to take precautions in the future.

EXPERIMENTAL DRUG USED TO TREAT BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with only 145 known infected individuals in the U.S. from 1962 through 2018. North Carolina had five cases during that time period. 

In 2016, an Ohio teen who visited the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte died after contracting the brain-eating amoeba. The center has since made significant upgrades to its filtration system to keep patrons safe. 

This story was reported on from Charlotte, N.C.

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