Officials: Swimmer dies from brain-eating amoeba after visiting NC water park

Officials: Swimmer dies from brain-eating amoeba after visiting NC water park

Magnified 1180X, this 1973 H&E-stained photomicrograph revealed the presence of Naegleria gruberi, free-living amoebae in a human brain tissue specimen, in a case of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). 

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Officials said someone died from a rare brain-eating amoeba after visiting a North Carolina water park.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the person, whose name has not yet been released, got sick after swimming at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12.

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Test results determined the death was caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that is commonly found in warm freshwater, like lakes and ponds.

NCHHS tips to stay safe in freshwater lakes:

  • Limit the amount of water going up your nose. Hold your nose shut, use nose clips or keep your head above water when taking part in warm freshwater-related activities.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

Officials said the amoeba does not make people sick if it’s swallowed, but can be deadly if it goes up the nose.

Health officials are working with the water park to educate swimmers about staying safe in natural bodies of water.

"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."

There have been five cases of brain-eating amoeba in North Carolina from 1962-2018, according to officials.