A visitor to a water park in North Carolina has died after developing an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba. A public health alert has been issued. Eddie Gray, of Guilford County, had gone to Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County, near Fort Bragg, earlier this month. He was on an outing with a church group, WRAL reports. His death was caused "by an amoeba that is naturally present in warm freshwater during the summer," the state Health Department said, per the Observer. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the cause of death. Such deaths are rare; state officials said there have been 145 confirmed cases, total, in the US.
The riskiest periods for infections are during heat waves, when water temperatures rise and water levels drop. The North Carolina water park remains open, though warning signs have been put up. Because swallowing the amoeba doesn't cause problems, a local health official said, "swimming in and of itself is not so much of concern." But if the amoeba is forced up the nose, it can be fatal. "Diving, jumping in from heights and maybe some of the forceful activity of submerging—those are situations I would make sure I had nose clips, nose plugs, or I'd pinch my nose if I knew I was going to be forcibly entering the water," the health official said. (Read more brain-eating amoeba stories.)