Local News

Whitewater Center suspends some activities after brain-eating amoeba found

Posted June 24, 2016 6:07 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2016 10:31 p.m. EDT

— Following the June 19 death of an Ohio teen who contracted a brain-eating amoeba after visiting the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, Health Officials said Friday the facility will be shut down as a precaution to the public.

According to Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found at the Whitewater Center. Health Officials said all whitewater rafting features and activities at the facility be closed as of Friday evening, until the source and a solution are found.

The center will remain open for non-whitewater activities.

"The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC), after discussion with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local health officials, has decided to temporarily suspend all whitewater activities effective immediately. This decision was made by the Whitewater Center after initial test results foundNaegleria Fowleri DNA was present in the whitewater system," the Whitewater Center said in a statement on their website. "The USNWC is working with the CDC and local health officials to develop next steps. Only whitewater activities are suspended. The USNWC remains open for all other operations and activities."

Naegleria fowleri is naturally present in warm, freshwater lakes during the summer. But infections caused by the amoeba are rare: fewer than 10 cases have been reported annually in the United States over the last 53 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Almost all such cases are fatal.

The suspected cause of death for the 18-year-old girl from Westerville, Ohio, is being attributed to primary amebic meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by a single-cell organism that can be fatal if forced up the nose, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Health officials said that water at the Whitewater Center is treated with filtration, UV radiation and, occasionally, the addition of chlorine. They do not believe there was any breakdown of those systems prior to the discovery of the amoeba.

Health officials said anyone concerned should wear nose clips in open water. They don't believe anybody who has recently participated in whitewater activities at the center should be concerned.

The Ohio teen was on a trip with other people, but no one else has shown symptoms of the infection.