GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s been two years since a Guilford County man died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba at a Cumberland County water park.
Eddie Gray was visiting Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County when he was exposed to Naegleria fowleri.
Naegleria fowleri, referred to as the brain-eating amoeba, is found in most bodies of warm freshwater.
“Of course, we found out that rare doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen because rare can happen,” Courtney Robbins said.
The 59-year-old was visiting the water park with a mission group from Kernersville’s Sedge Garden United Methodist Church at the end of a long week of helping repair damaged homes.
Gray’s daughter is warning the community about the increased threat in the summer months.
“My dad grew up going to the river, the creek and playing and jumping. It’s just something that we didn’t really know about, and he didn’t know about it,” Robbins said.
Dr. John Sanders is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health. He says when somebody becomes infected it’s almost uniformly fatal.
The amoeba is dangerous if it enters the body through the nose and then travels to the brain. It lives naturally in warm freshwater, including lakes, rivers and ponds.
“First try not to jump in or dive in and get water up your nose, so if you are playing in it, keep your head above water. If you do get water up your nose blow it out,” Sanders said.
Sanders says initial symptoms resemble meningitis.
Robbins wishes the doctors would have asked more thorough questions when initially examining her dad. She says her dad was misdiagnoses and his symptoms quickly escalated from a headache to brain dead. He died less than two weeks after exposure.
“Even though he is gone we are doing the best we absolutely can. It’s been almost two years and we miss him every single day,” Robbins said.
She says her dad was always trying to help and do for others and she knows he’s continuing to watch over all of them.
“If my dad had to choose, he would have chosen himself instead of one of the teens that he was with or any of the people at the water park for that matter, just because that was the type of person that he was,” Robbins said.
Sanders says next time you hit the water try to remember to limit the amount of water going up your nose.
That means avoiding diving or jumping and if you plan to do so, consider wearing nose plugs or at least holding your nose.