Ohio teen dies from suspected brain-eating amoeba

An Ohio teen died Sunday after contracting a suspected brain-eating amoeba while swimming in North Carolina. Lauren Elisabeth Seitz, of Westerville, Ohio, was visiting the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte with her church’s youth music ministry group when she contracted the infection, WYFF4.com reported.

“They had one day of recreation where they stopped at the U.S. Whitewater Center and went whitewater rafting, and they had a grand day,” Jim Wilson, Seitz’s pastor at the Church of the Messiah United Methodist Church, told WYFF4.com.

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Reports do not indicate when Seitz began feeling ill, but her cause of death is primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba, Fox26 reported. The organism is not harmful if swallowed, but it can be fatal if it travels to the brain through the nose.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ohio Department of Public Health, Franklin County Public Health Department, U.S. National White Water Center and Mecklenburg County Health Department are investigating the incident.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department said the Whitewater Center is believed to be safe, as it is equipped with a treatment system for the water that is chlorinated and treated with UV radiation, WYFF4.com reported.

Amoebas are common in warm waters, but swimmers can take precautionary steps to avoid infection. Recommendations include: limiting the amount of water in the nasal passage by holding the nose shut, utilizing nose clips or keeping their head above water, and avoiding water-related activities in warm fresh water during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.