Local News

Guilford County man dies after contracting amoeba at Hope Mills' Fantasy Lake

Posted July 25, 2019 12:05 p.m. EDT
Updated July 25, 2019 6:51 p.m. EDT

— A Guilford County man died earlier this week from complications of an illness contracted at Hope Mills' Fantasy Lake, according to medical examiners.

Eddie Gray visited the lake on July 12 as part of a mission group from Sedge Garden United Methodist Church in Kernersville.

Gray died Monday from complication of Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba (one-celled living organism) commonly found in warm freshwater.

Naegleria fowleri, referred to as the brain-eating amoeba, does not cause illness if swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose, as can occur during diving, water-skiing or other water activities, according to a news release.

Medical professionals told WRAL News that PAM can be found in any body of freshwater and can become elevated during extremely hot weather.

Cumberland County officials told Fantasy Lake to put up signs alerting the public to use precautions while swimming, but they did not demand the water park be closed.

"Swimming in and of itself is not so much of concern," said Duane Holder, interim director of the Cumberland County Health Department. "Now, diving, jumping in from heights and maybe some of the forceful activity of submerging, those are situations I would make sure I had nose clips, nose plugs, or I'd pinch my nose if I knew I was going to be forcibly entering the water."

Gray's family did not want to speak, but their attorney provided a statement which reads in part, "Mr. Gray’s death was tragic and untimely. The family is currently asking for privacy and respect during this difficult time. Otherwise, at this time, the family has no comment."

Holder was at Fantasy Lake on Thursday morning to talk with the park’s owner and staff to make sure they were aware of the risk and were taking precautions for themselves and the public.

When asked if it was safe to swim at the lake, Holder said yes, because this type of bacteria is present all the time in just about all fresh bodies of water.

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with only 145 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 through 2018. North Carolina had five cases during that time period, according to the CDC. The amoeba can cause severe illness up to nine days after exposure.