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Suspected wave pool death turns focus to deadly amoeba

Rare brain-eating amoeba suspected in surfer’s death weeks after visit to wave pool

The BSR Surf Resort in Waco Texas remains closed following the death of a New Jersey surfer. Fabrizio Stabile contracted a brain-eating amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri and died on September 21. He surfed BSR Surf Resort on September 8. BSR hasn’t been 100% confirmed as the source of contracting the amoeba, but authorities are treating the wave pool as the source.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with local authorities testing the water at the Surf Resort and collecting as much information as possible.

“The CDC collected water samples and are currently investigating to find the source,” said Waco-McLennan County Public Health District spokesperson Kelly Craine. “We hope to have results by the end of the week.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a small CDC team is looking specifically for signs of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in Waco.

What is Naegleria fowleri?

The amoeba can cause a deadly infection known as amebic meningoencephalitis when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Swallowing the water 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.”

The amoeba is typically found in lakes, rivers and hot springs and prefers warm freshwater.

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

The danger with surfing is the rinse cycle nature of getting tumbled around by waves. Water frequently enters the nose and gets stuck in the sinus cavities. Any surfer who has experienced post-surf nasal drain – a gush of water exiting the nostrils anywhere from a few minutes to several hours after a session – is aware of just how much water can enter their system.

First symptoms appear one-to-nine days after exposure and mimic a common cold. Headache, fever and nausea are later replaced by a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and even hallucinations. Once symptoms appear death usually occurs within two weeks.

Fabrizio Stabile and fish

Fabrizio Stabile loved to fish. Image courtesy Fabrizio Stabile Foundation

 

What happened to Fabrizio Stabile?

“While Fabrizio was mowing his lawn on the afternoon of Sunday, September 16, he suddenly experienced a severe headache and went to lie down,” says the Fabrizio Stabile Foundation web page.

“After taking medicine for the headache, he ended up sleeping through the night, and when he awoke Monday morning, the headache had not gone away. He asked his mother for more medicine and went back to sleep.  When his mother went to check on him in the early afternoon, Fabrizio could not get out of bed and could not speak coherently. His mother called 911 and EMTs rushed him to the hospital.”

BSR and the CDC

BSR Cable Park owner Stuart E. Parsons Jr. said BSR Surf Resort values its guests’ safety and will continue to comply with requests from the CDC and local health department in the investigation of the death of Fabrizio “Fab” Stabile.

“Our hearts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the New Jersey surf community during this difficult time,” Parsons told the Waco Herald Tribune.

“BSR Surf Resort operates a state of the art artificial man-made wave. We are in compliance with the CDC guidelines and recommendations concerning Naegleria fowleri.”

Parsons said the park has voluntarily closed pending the results of the CDC testing. He said that Stabile had visited the park’s wave pool.

Kelly Craine, Waco-McLennan County Public Health District spokesperson, confirmed that the park voluntarily closed and that the CDC’s expertise is crucial in finding an answer.

“We wanted their subject matter expertise,” she told the Waco Tribune adding that the condition is “very, very, very rare, very rare.”

The obituary for Fabrizio said “Fab”, as family and friends would call him, was an avid outdoorsman who loved snowboarding, surfing, and “anything to do with friends and family,” and will be remembered as “someone with a contagious smile, who could lift the spirits of anyone and everyone he talked to.”

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Swim Above Water Amoeba Awareness Foundation in Fabrizio’s name.


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