Invisible Zombie: Brain-Devouring Amoeba Kills US Swimmer in North Carolina

Henrietta Brewer
July 27, 2019

The man, identified as Eddie Gray, 59, of Guildford County, NC, had been to the Hope Mills' Fantasy Park with a church group from Sedge Garden United Methodist Church. He was later diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis, an illness caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba found in warm freshwater during the summer.

"Our sympathies are with the family and loved ones", State Epidemiologist Zack Moore said in a news release.

A North Carolina man is dead after contracting a brain-eating amoeba during a trip to a freshwater lake water park.

His family has asked "for privacy and respect during this hard time", his wife's attorney, Justin Plummer, told the station.

California woman Kelsey McClain, 24, passed away after a brain-eating amoeba left her brain dead after entering her nose while she was swimming in the Colorado River in 2016.

Naegleria fowleri is a type of amoeba that enters through the nostrils and travels to the brain and starts to destroy the brain tissues.

There have only been five cases in North Carolina from 1962 to 2018.

Naegleria fowleri can be fatal if forced up the nose, like during various water activities.

Between 1962 and past year, only 145 people were infected with Naegleria fowleri - North Carolina, alone, had just five cases during that period. This usually happens when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places. The amoeba does not cause illness if swallowed. People can also lower their risk by avoiding swimming in warm freshwater during periods of particularly high water temperature and low water levels, the NCDHH said.

People can not be infected by drinking water or salt water, but state officials said the warning was being issued to alert the public to other possible infection sites.

Notably, people can not contract the bacteria by drinking contaminated water. Later, symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations.

If you choose to go swimming in warm freshwater, you can try to avoid having water go up your nose by holding your nose closed, using nose clips or keeping your head above water, the CDC says.

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