Whitewater Center in NC voluntarily shutting down after teen dies from amoeba

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The U.S. National Whitewater Center has suspended all whitewater activities “effectively immediately” after water samples came back positive for an amoeba that is believed to have caused an 18-year-old girl to die.RELATED: Teen girl dies from suspected amoeba after visiting Whitewater Center in NC

A teenage girl from Ohio died Sunday after contracting a very rare brain-eating amoeba that is believed to have been contracted while visiting the Whitewater Center in Charlotte earlier this month.

According to a memo obtained by WBTV, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena R. Diorio told county commissioners that water samples taken at the Whitewater Center are all coming back positive with the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.

“Based on that, the State and County Health Departments believe the facility should be closed until the source and solution can be identified, Diorio told commissioners, “They will contact Jeff Wise [CEO of the U.S. National Whitewater Center] and request that he voluntarily close the facility. If not, they will order the facility close temporarily.”

According to the USNWC, the company has “decided to temporarily suspend all whitewater activities effective immediately.”

The decision came “after discussion with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local health officials,” according to USNWC officials. “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.”Water samples test positive

According to Mecklenburg County Health Director Marcus Plescia, eleven water samples were taken Wednesday at the whitewater center after the news of the teen’s death broke.

The preliminary results of those tests came back Friday and the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, was found in a majority of the samples.

Plescia says the CDC took samples from the whitewater feature, the open water and from the water filtration system.

The USNWC has a “sophisticated water filtration system,” according to Plescia, that recycles the water and cleans it using ultraviolet purification and chlorine, when needed.

He says the positive tests on the preliminary results was not a surprise since health officials suspected the amoeba was present in the water. The full results are expected to be returned next week, once the cultures have a chance to grow.Naegleria fowleri

The amoebas are naturally present in warm lakes during the summer, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) said.

NCDHHS officials say the teenage victim was in a raft that overturned at the Whitewater Center. Several other people also overturned on the raft.

“The suspected cause of death was attributed to Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, a one-celled organism that does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be fatal if forced up the nose,” NCDHHS said Wednesday.

Plescia reiterated that Friday evening, saying the microorganism is very common in open waters when the temperatures rise.

“If people go into lakes and rivers here, they are likely to come into contact with this,” he said.

While the amoeba is common, the infection that the teen girl from Ohio died from is very rare – only 35 cases have been detected in the past ten years.The teen victim

While the NCDHHS didn’t release the person’s identity, 18-year-old Lauren Seitz’s church, Church of the Messiah United Methodist, in Westerville, OH says the teen girl died Sunday. This is the same day NCDHHS says the victim died.

Seitz was part of a 32-person youth group tour that was on a music mission tour, according to the church, in Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina. They sang at nursing homes and churches along the way.

They went to the USNWC on June 8 as part of the group’s “fun day” while on the tour.

She was active in the Westerville South marching band and the group hosted a memorial and prayer vigil Tuesday night.

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