On June 19, 18-year-old Ohioan Lauren Seitz went whitewater rafting with her church youth group. After her boat capsized, she found herself underwater, where a brain-eating amoeba made its way up her nose. This organism ultimately killed Seitz by inducing a form of meningitis. Originally, the facility where she contracted the amoeba did not plan to shut its doors until they had done further investigating, but now the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina has indefinitely suspended all water activities.
The Center said in a statement:
“The USNWC is working with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local health officials to develop next steps.”
While it was previously thought to be a one in a million occurrence, the center took measures to shut down when, after taking 11 water samples, the amoeba Naegleria Fowleri was present in all of them. The park, however, states that they use ultraviolet radiation to disinfect the water before visitors are allowed in it, which they thought would kill at least 99.9 percent of the bacteria.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, Mecklenburg County’s health director said that those who have already come to the park should not be worried, however they want to protect the public from any future issues. He stated:
“We want the public to feel safe going there, but we also need to be realistic about what can and can’t be done. We need to weigh this particular threat against what people might see in the real world if you go to a river or a lake or even some swimming pools.”
This bacteria is typically found in warm, freshwater lakes and is present during the summer. But it can also breed in pipes, hot springs and pools that haven’t been well maintained.
The Centers for Disease Control have stated that there are about 10 cases of this infection annually, and the rate has been quite steady over the last 53 years. Death results in almost all cases, which is why the facility and the public need to remain extra cautious.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.