FAYETTEVILLE – Cumberland County Department of Public Health officials have been notified by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Guilford County Public Health officials that an individual from Guilford County died after developing Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, an illness caused by an ameba that is naturally present in warm freshwater during the summer. The individual became ill after swimming in Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12, 2019.
The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that the individual’s illness was caused by Naegleria fowleri, which is an ameba (one-celled living organism) commonly found in warm freshwater. The ameba does not cause illness if swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose. Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.
Infection due to Naegleria fowleri is rare, as evidenced by the reporting of only five cases in the State of North Carolina between 1962 and 2018.
“I would like to first express my sincere condolences to the family of this individual,” said Duane Holder, Cumberland County Interim Health Director and Assistant County Manager. “We encourage everyone to use precaution when swimming, diving, or water-skiing in warm freshwater lakes.”
The ameba cannot be eliminated from freshwater lakes because it is naturally occurring, but the following precautions are recommended:
- Limit the amount of water going up your nose. Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in warm freshwater-related activities.
- Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperatures and low water levels.
- Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
For more information about Naegleria fowleri and Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, visit http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/. If you have questions or concerns, you may contact the Cumberland County Department of Public Health at 910-433-3645 or 910-433-3655.
If you would like more information about the Cumberland County Department of Public Health’s programs and services, health-related data, or community resources, please call 910-433-3600 or visit with someone at the information desk, or visit our website at co.cumberland.nc.us/health. Comments are welcome and can be submitted on our website at co.cumberland.nc.us/feedback. The Health Department is located at 1235 Ramsey St. in Fayetteville.