An 18-year-old girl from Ohio has died from a brain-eating amoeba according to health officials.
The unfortunate victim, Lauren Elisabeth Seitz, of Westerville, Ohio died on Sunday. The cause of death was confirmed as primary amebic mengioencephalitis. This is an uncommon but deadly infection of the brain caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, said the director of communication for Franklin County Public Health, Mitzi Kline.
It was confirmed that the amoeba was found within the cerebral spinal fluid by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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The amoeba lives in water, usually warm freshwater, including lakes, rivers and hot springs, but can also grow in pipes. It is not able to survive salt water so they are not found in the oceans.
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The victim was a member of the Church of the Messiah, a United Methodist church, youth musical group. The group had been visiting North Carolina, stopping to sing at churches and nursing homes along the way.
They were given one day’s recreation leave and they visited the US National Whitewater Centre in Charlotte. This was the teen’s only known water exposure, and the raft they had been in capsized that day.
In response, the US National Whitewater Centre (USNWC) has said that it gets its water from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department and two of its own proprietary wells on the property. It also stated that it treats all water with both 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 continued.
They added that three times the usual amount of chlorine had been added as an extra precaution following the incident.
“The USNWC has been in compliance with all required water quality standards,” the statement pointed out. Adding, “state and county health officials and the center are collaborating with further investigations.”
Naegleria fowleri can usually be drank without too much problem, but if ingested through the nose and it gets up into the brain, the consequences are fatal.
It can be ingested through diving, using a water side or just swimming in contaminated water.
Cases generally occur more in Summer months and in Southern states when and where the weather is warmer.
The infection caused is not contagious.
Instances of infection are very rare, and the CDC noted that there had only been 37 confirmed instances of a Naegleria fowleri infections between 2006 and 2015. However, of those that did find themselves with the infection, only three percent (one person) had actually survived,
Over a longer time-frame, “Only 3 out of the 138 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2015 have survived,” the CDC said.
Symptoms usually include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting which can start to present themselves anything from one day to nine days after the infection, but the average is about five days.
Once symptoms appear, death can occur within four or five days.
With anything as uncommon (however deadly) it is difficult to make recommendations. That said, limiting the amount of water that enters the nasal passage will help reduce your chances of the amoeba getting to the brain.
That can be done by holding your nose when you jump in, using nose plugs, or just always keeping your head above water. Be extra careful when playing in fresh water, especially if the water and weather are warm, or there are particularly low water levels.