Health Officials Trying to Trace Source of Deadly Amoeba
Investigators are trying to trace the steps of an 18-year old Ohio girl who died after a trip to North Carolina.
CHARLOTTE, NC — 18-year old Lauren Seitz was part of a church group, visiting from Ohio, that went to the U.S. National Whitewater Center on June 8th. She died 11 days later, after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba. Now, investigators are trying to trace her steps to determine where she was exposed.
“It’s very uncommon for people to develop this kind of infection with it,” says Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Marcus Plescia.
Incredibly rare. Especially deadly.
Doctors believe Lauren Seitz died from Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri; an amoeba that dwells in warm freshwater during the summer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 35 people have contracted the illness in the last ten years.
“We have been working with the Whitewater Center,” says Dr. Plescia. “They are very concerned about this. They’ve been extremely cooperative with us.”
Seitz was part of a church group from Ohio that went to the Whitewater Center two weeks ago.
Doctors say you can’t get sick from drinking the amoeba, but in rare cases it can be fatal when forced up the nose.
Naegleria fowleri is not something the CDC usually tests for, and it can be very difficult to detect.
“If it’s negative, it doesn’t necessarily say its’ not there,” says Dr. Jennifer Cope with the CDC. “It just says it’s not in that particular water sample that we collected at that particular time.”
The CDC is testing the Whitewater Center.
The Center sent WCCB a statement saying:
“The water contained in the whitewater channels is in a closed loop system comprised entirely of concrete.”
“The water is disinfected with ultraviolet radiation and filtered with a disc filtration system.”
Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Marcus Plescia says, for now, the Whitewater Center is as safe as any open body of water.
“We don’t know for certain it was the Whitewater Center,” says Plescia. “We’re still trying to learn if they may have had any other access to open water sources.”
“I know they’re testing it,” says a cyclist we talked to who rides the trails at the Whitewater Center. “There’s still people in the water. They must be reasonably confident, or they wouldn’t be having people still in the water. So my guess is it’s fine.”
The Mecklenburg County Health Department says none of the other people from Ohio who were on the trip to North Carolina has developed any symptoms consistent with exposure to Niglerea fowleri.