An 18-year-old Ohio woman died Sunday as the result of a brain-eating amoeba that officials said she may have contracted while whitewater rafting earlier this month.
Doctors attributed the death of Lauren Seitz, 18, to primary amebic meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by the naegleria fowleri amoeba found in warm fresh water. The amoeba can infect the brain by entering a person’s nose.
It’s unclear where Seitz contracted the amoeba, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are testing the water at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Seitz went rafting there on June 8 with a church youth music group. Her raft overturned, which could have sent water containing the amoeba up her nose.
Other people who were in the raft with her haven't fallen ill.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, the health department director for Mecklenburg County — where the whitewater center is located — told the Charlotte Observer the center is “as safe as any body of water,” and noted there are “things … that can cause illnesses” in any lake or pond. Nevertheless, officials treated the water there with chlorine.
Seitz’s obituary described her as music lover who cared deeply about others:
Lauren understood the overwhelming beauty and fragility of life with uncommon clarity and cared so deeply about the welfare of other people and this world we all share. Her genuine kindness and encouragement will continue to inspire and comfort everyone who knew her.
Seitz graduated from Westerville South High School in May, and had planned to study environmental science, with a minor in music, at Denison University in Ohio.
Infections from naegleria fowleri are rare, but nearly always fatal. Only 138 people were diagnosed with the infection from 1962 to 2015, and only three survived. Symptoms include sudden fever, headache, vomiting or a stiff neck.
The CDC writes that people should “assume that naegleria fowleri is present in warm freshwater across the United States” and avoid getting that water up their nose. People who have recently been in warm freshwater and are experiencing infection symptoms should get medical care immediately.