Health officials in North Carolina have announced that brain-eating amoeba has killed an 18-year-old from a meningitis infection caused by Naegleria fowleri. Lauren Seitz of Ohio death is suspected to have taken place from a primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Investigation in the case is going on.
Naegleria fowleri lives in warm freshwater, hot springs and improperly cleaned swimming pools. When the amoeba swims through a person’s nose then it can lead to a deadly infection that causes severe damage to person’s brain tissue.
According to experts, such infections are quite rare. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 138 cases have been reported since 1962. In the current case, investigation is going on to find out as to whether Seitz contracted the infection when she went for whitewater rafting in Charlotte during a church trip.
Marcus Plescia, Director of Mecklenburg County Health Department, said that owing to the N. fowleri infection, Seitz developed meningitis. She suffered from inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues and died of the condition.
Focus would remain on the US National Whitewater Center, as it is one of the stops where Seitz’s group went. Jeffrey Wise, the center’s CEO, said, “We are continuing to work with health officials to examine the facts involved in Lauren’s case, although we have been told repeatedly that little additional information will be determinable specific to this occasion”.
The US National Whitewater Center sources water from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Department and two wells. The water is disinfected with ultraviolet radiation and filtered with a disc system. As per the center, chlorine is periodically used.
The center continues to remain open, but mentioned of adding additional chlorine in the system as a precautionary move.
Senior pastor Jim Wilson shared that Seitz was one 32 young people who as a part of group has travelled Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina to sing at churches and nursing homes. Pastor Wilson was of the view that for a day, the group had a recreation day in which it visited whitewater rafting in North Carolina.
Mitzi Kiline, spokeswoman for the Franklin County Department of Public Health in Ohio, does not think that Seitz has fallen ill in Ohio and thinks that she contracted the infection when she was travelling.
Plescia said that the water at the center is as safe as any water body. As mentioned above, the cases of N. Fowleri are rare, and generally affect health and young people. For now, it is also not known that as to why some people become infected and others do not even when they have contact with same water.
According to the CDC, the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection is quite low. From 2006 to 2015, there have been 37 reported infections in the US. The number does matter as million of recreational water exposure takes place on annual basis.
As per the CDC, most of the cases that involve contaminated recreational water in the United States include contaminated recreational water. Generally, infections take place in summer months and especially in southern states.
The band in which Seitz was part of has organized a memorial and candlelight vigil this week. Aband director John Laswell mentioned that Seitz death has been a big loss for the band, the Westerville community and family.
“Brain-eating amoeba is most commonly found in warm fresh waters such as lakes, rivers and hot springs. It also resides in poorly maintained or minimally chlorinated swimming pools, staying in these habitats to feed on bacteria. “Amoeba is naturally occurring, so it could be present in any body of fresh water,” Florida Department of Health in Orange County spokeswoman Mirna Chamorro tells PEOPLE. The majority of infections from amoeba have occurred in “15 southern-tier states, with more than half of all infections occurring in Texas and Florida.” Naegleria is not found in salt water,” according to a news report published by Yahoo News.
Symptoms of brain-eating amoeba generally start one to nine days after nasal exposure and many people die within 18 days of showing symptoms, according to the CDC. These include severe headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting in the first stage and stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations and a coma in the second stage. PAM, the infection caused from the amoeba, is ultimately hard to detect though, because of the rapid progression of the disease. Diagnosis is typically made postmortem.
According to a story published on the topic by CNN News, “A brain-eating amoeba took the life a teenager who went on a church trip in Charlotte, North Carolina, health officials said Wednesday. The 18-year-old Ohio woman died of primary amebic mengioencephalitis on Sunday, a rare but fatal brain infection caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, said Mitzi Kline, director of communication for Franklin County Public Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of the amoeba in cerebral spinal fluid.”
In response to the incident, the U.S. National Whitewater Center said in a statement that it gets its water from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department and two wells on its property, adding that it disinfects all water with ultraviolet radiation and chlorine. “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%,” the statement said. Out of an abundance of caution, it said it added more chlorine into its system when it learned of this incident.
A report published in CBS News revealed, “Mitzi Kline with Franklin County Public Health told WBNS the teen died in Ohio, but was exposed to the amoeba at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C. The amoeba lives in freshwater has an incubation period of 1 to 7 days, but it is not contagious. Seitz was a member of the Westerville South High School band, which will be hosting a memorial and prayer vigil Tuesday night in the band room for members.”
Only 133 cases of the infection have been reported over the past 53 years, according to the CDC, and only three people are known to have survived. Naegleria fowleri infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. The amoeba then travels up the nose to the brain where it causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that destroys brain tissue.