Brain-Eating Amoeba Leads To Closure Of North Carolina Waterpark

Lauren Seltz was exposed to a brain-eating amoeba while whitewater rafting in the U.S. National Whitewater Center, when the raft she was riding overturned, throwing her into the water.

After the 18-year-old woman died due to the infection by naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba in question, the North Carolina waterpark was closed.

The Inquisitr previously reported that Seltz, who hails from Franklin County, in Ohio, died last Sunday after her trip to North Carolina. According to officials from the Franklin County Health Department, Lauren could only have contracted the infection while she was whitewater rafting in the North Carolina waterpark.

At the time, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement reading, “The deceased’s only known underwater exposure was believed to be when riding in a raft with several others that overturned at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.”

As reported by the Guardian, after testing the water, a statement has now been released by the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) saying, “Initial test results found naegleria fowleri DNA was present in the whitewater system.”

At a press conference the Mecklenburg County Health Director Marcus Plescia said the majority of the 11 water samples they tested turned out to have the brain-eating amoeba present.

Another statement by the USNWC chief executive Jeffrey Wise expressed the company’s “sincere condolences and sympathies to Lauren and her family.”

Wise admitted that while they do their best to prevent such incidents, there is an inherent danger.

“Despite every measure we take, there is always a risk of injury or harm based on the very nature of what we do and who we are,” he said. “We are deeply saddened any time harm occurs as a result.”

James Seltz, Lauren’s father, sent a statement to NBC in Ohio, explaining that his 18-year-old daughter was a talented musician and writer, who cared a lot about nature.

“Our family is completely heartbroken and lost without Lauren,” he said.

“It is unacceptable that a person who loved nature so much, and was so passionate about environmental issues should be taken from us in this way.”

Reportedly, the naegleria fowleri amoeba is most frequently found in warm lakes, springs, and rivers during the summer months and if swallowed, it has no bad effects. However, if the water containing the amoeba is forced up the nose, it can lead to a fatal infection, as in Lauren’s case.

Should someone be infected by the brain-eating amoeba, the disease can run for up to 9 days and symptoms may include fever, headache, vomiting, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. Regrettably, death follows in more than 97 percent of cases involving the amoeba, according to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infections are, reportedly, rare, with only 138 cases in the last 53 years in the U.S. Most deaths caused by the brain-eating amoeba in recent years have occurred in Texas and Louisiana, where the waters are warmer.

Reportedly, while the U.S. National Whitewater Center is closed, officials regularly disinfect the water with ultraviolet radiation, and the water is filtered and given a dose of chlorine on a regular basis. Weekly tests are conducted on the water by a third-party laboratory.

Reportedly, the laboratory has said that “the levels of UV radiation disinfection utilized every day, continuously, at the center are sufficient to ‘inactivate’ the water-born amoeba in question to an effective level of 99.99%.”

It was not stated when the water park would be reopening.

[Photo via Flickr by The National Guard, cropped and resized/CC BY 2.0]