A North Carolina man has died weeks after contracting an illness from a brain-eating amoeba after swimming at a water park in the state.
The man, who has been identified as Eddie Gray by local outlets, was part of a mission group visiting from a nearby county that went to the Fantasy Lake water park in Cumberland County, North Carolina on July 12. Gray died from complications from Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that officials say is commonly found in warm freshwater.
The 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 the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
In a statement, the NCDHHS said that local health officials “are working with the water park to provide guidance and education about the presence of Naegleria fowleri and how to take precautions when in natural bodies of freshwater.”
“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,” said state epidemiologist Zack Moore, also offering sympathies to Gray’s family.
Interim director of the Cumberland County Health Department, Duane Holder, emphasized that “diving, jumping in from heights and maybe some of the forceful activity of submerging” are all activities that put swimmers at risk, according to WRAL.
“Our church family is deeply saddened by this loss and our prayers are with the family in this time of grief,” said Rev. Justin Lowe, the pastor at Gray’s church, in a statement to the Charlotte Observer. “Our focus now is offering support and care for all of the family, as well as our larger church family.”
According to the New York Times, of the 145 known cases of people infected with the brain-eating amoeba between 1962 and 2018, all but four were fatal. The Charlotte Observer reported that five of those cases took place in North Carolina.
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