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Man dies after contracting brain-eating amoeba while swimming in lake

A North Carolina man contracted a rare but deadly bacteria after swimming in a lake in a water park, health officials said.
brain-eating amoeba
A microscopic image of Naegleria fowleri. A North Carolina man died after contracting the brain-eating amoeba while swimming in a lake at a water park, health officials said.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

A North Carolina man has died after he was infected with a brain-eating amoeba when he went swimming earlier this month.

The man, identified as Eddie Gray by Raleigh NBC affiliate WRAL, went to Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12 with a church group. He died on Monday from complications of Naegleria fowleri, the station reported. It's unclear how old Gray was.

“Laboratory testing at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the individual’s illness was caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba (one-celled living organism) commonly found in warm freshwater,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

“Naegleria fowleri, referred to as the brain-eating amoeba, does not cause illness if swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose, as can occur during diving, water-skiing or other water activities.”

A lawyer for the family called Gray's death "tragic and untimely" in a statement to NBC News.

"The family is currently asking for privacy and respect during this difficult time. Otherwise, at this time, the family has no comment,” the statement said.

County officials have not ordered the water park to be closed, but they did say signs should be put up encouraging people to be cautious while swimming.

"Swimming in and of itself is not so much of concern," said Duane Holder, interim director of the Cumberland County Health Department, told WRAL.

"Now, 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."

Naegleria fowleri is not common. Only 145 people were known to have become infected with the amoeba from 1962 through 2018, reports the CDC.