CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The U.S. National Whitewater Center voluntarily closed its whitewater rafting activities Friday afternoon after water samples tested positive for a brain-eating amoeba, officials confirmed.
Visitors said that on Friday at about 4 p.m., a staff member blew a whistle and had everyone get out of the water.
The center itself is not closed, with land and flat-water activities continuing as normal.
The water tests are preliminary and final results will not be ready until next week.
“We feel quite certain amoeba is present in the Whitewater Center,” Mecklenburg County Health Department Director Dr. Marcus Plescia said at a news conference Friday evening.
Advice was given by both State and County health departments following positive test results for Naegleria fowleri amoeba. @wsoctv— Jenna Deery (@JennaWSOC9) June 24, 2016
Local, state and federal health officials are investigating after an Ohio teenager died from a brain-eating amoeba days after visiting the Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
Officials believe that is what happened to recent high school graduate Lauren Seitz, 18. She died last Sunday after visiting the Whitewater Center on June 8 with her church group.
A letter from the Mecklenburg County Health Department said if the facility didn’t close on its own, it would be ordered to close temporarily.
(Watch Plescia address the media)
The Health Department is working closely with the Whitewater Center, Plescia said.
Naegleria fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba found in warm freshwater, like lakes and ponds. It does not make people sick if it’s swallowed, but if it goes up a nasal cavity, where it's close to the brain, it can be deadly.
Plescia said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was running tests Wednesday at the facility.
“Some preliminary results from those tests today show there is indeed an organism, Naegleria fowleri, at the whitewater site at the center,” he said.
The amoeba is present in many open water sources. Testing will continue over the next few days, Plescia said.
He said it’s not common for people to become ill.
“Only 35 in the last 10 years of this specific infection,” he said.
The CDC took 11 samples and the amoeba was found in most of them. Samples came from various parts of the water feature, internal system areas and in other places.
Plescia said the risk of driving to the Whitewater Center and being in a vehicle accident is higher than being infected by the amoeba at the facility.
“The U.S. National Whitewater Center, after discussion with the Centers for Disease Control and local health officials, has decided to temporarily suspend all whitewater activities effective immediately.
This decision was made after initial test results found Naegleria Fowleri DNA was present in the whitewater system.
The USNWC is working with the CDC and local health officials to develop next steps. Only whitewater activities are suspended.
The USNWC remains open for all other operations and activities.”
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