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Amoebas & bacteria could be to wave pools what sharks are to Reunion Island

Another person has died after contracting Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba. The man in his fifties, later identified as Eddi Gray, was at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Hope Mills North Carolina. The alleged incident happened at the water park’s artificial lake which serves as the facility’s centerpiece.

Last year the surfing world lost Fabrizio Stabile after he contracted the same amoeba in the wave pool at BSR Surf Resort. BSR has since installed a state-of-the-art filtration system. The family of Stabile filed a wrongful death suit against BSR earlier this year.

Naegleria fowleri can cause the deadly infection known as amebic meningoencephalitis when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Swallowing the water with Naegleria fowleri is safe and does not have the same effect.

“Infections most often occur when water containing N. fowleri is inhaled through the nose,” says the CDC. “It then enters the nasal and olfactory nerve tissue, traveling to the brain through the cribriform plate. The reason why N. fowleri prefers to pass across the cribriform plate has remained unknown.”

Naegleria fowleri is the free-living, bacteria-eating amoeba that cause a sudden and severe brain infection. The amoeba is found in warm ponds, lakes, rivers and even hot springs.

According to the CDC, there were 30 “recreational water contracted” infections reported in the U.S. during the past decade. During that time frame, four additional cases occurred when contaminated tap water was used to irrigate nasal passages.

Recently in South Carolina, an unidentified woman allegedly scraped her arm at a Myrtle Beach wave pool and, according to a lawsuit, was infected by flesh-eating bacteria, or Necrotizing fasciitis.

Flesh-eating bacteria enters the body through cuts and scrapes where it begins to infect the surrounding soft tissue. It is different from brain-eating amoeba in that a healthy victim can usually fight off the infection with proper wound care.

According to Wikipedia Necrotizing fasciitis occurs in about 0.4 people per 100,000 per year in the US, and about 1 per 100,000 in Western Europe.

The owner of the Wild Water & Wheel waterpark told Myrtle Beach Online that the water park meets all state Department of Health and Environmental Control standards.

The victim is now suing the water park for her wave pool injury after permanent disfigurement and having to undergo nearly $1million in surgeries.

As surfers jump into wave pools, and likely suffer the odd fin-gash, scrape or cut, water quality will be imperative to keep deadly amoebas at bay.

BSR installed an extensive water filtration system over the winter. Wavegarden had boasted about their top-secret water-cleaning system for the Cove and Surf Lakes announced they chlorinated their test facility in Yeppoon and will continue this practice as they open up other wave pools.


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