A North Carolina man has died from a brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a manmade freshwater lake at a water park, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Thursday.
The unidentified individual reportedly became sick after spending the day at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12. Testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the man's sickness was caused by Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled living organism that is often found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers and hot springs. The organism is commonly referred to as the brain-eating amoeba and can kill if it enters the body through the nose, the NCDHHS notes.
Local officials are purportedly working with the water park to educate employees about the amoeba, which is nearly impossible to eliminate from freshwater lakes.
"Our sympathies are with the family and loved ones," said the state's epidemiologist Zack Moore. "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."
Between 1962 and last year, only 145 people were infected with Naegleria fowleri — North Carolina, alone, had just five cases during that period. Still, the NCDHHS says residents should think twice about participating in "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," the agency added.