18-Year-Old Dies From Brain-Eating Amoeba, a Nightmare No Parent Imagines


I imagine there are a million thoughts that run through parents' minds before letting their children go forth into the world, allowing their kids to explore and live (at any age). Typically, when considering the dangers, we tend to think of the most logical and immediate threats; it's just natural, and frankly it's all the torture our minds can take. Parents warn their children not to get in the car with a drunk driver, not to meet up with strangers, not to separate from your friends -- but sadly sometimes that's not enough to equip anyone, much less a child, from some of the most unexpected dangers to be faced. That's what makes Ohio 18-year-old Lauren Seitz's death -- caused by primary amebic meningoencephalitis (or, in other words, a brain-eating amoeba) -- all the more tragic. 


The recent high school graduate was traveling with her church choir when they made a pit stop to go rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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While the teen is believed to have contracted primary amebic meningoencephalitis (or PAM) in the time frame in which she was exposed to the water, the Whitewater Center issued a statement to FOX46 Charlotte that the water (sourced by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Department) is filtered and disinfected via disc filtration system -- and tested weekly.

The situation is being further investigated in order to find the official source of contamination. Meanwhile, Mitzi Kline, the communication director for Franklin County Public Health in Ohio, described the cause of death as a severe brain infection caused by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

Allegedly the organism enters your brain, specifically through the nasal cavity, typically while someone is partaking in aquatic activities (diving, for example) in warm fresh bodies of water; however, the amoeba cannot harm you if ingested orally. And, it's often found lurking in the waters in Southern/Southwestern states.

Furthermore, its presence is almost always fatal according to the CDC, which reports that of 138 known infections in the U.S., only three of those afflicted have lived through the experience. 

Sadly, what began as an adventure for the recent graduate wound up being the all-too-soon ending of what seemed to be such a beautiful life -- guaranteed to be missed among friends and family alike.

Jim Wilson, pastor of Church of the Messiah Methodist, took to the church's Facebook page to speak of the loss and reminding his congregation that "for all the smiles that Lauren brought to our church we are thankful and blessed."

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This occurrence is far from comforting for parents, especially since the best prevention tactics when swimming in warm fresh water include being cautious of how much water children are inhaling through their nasal passage; avoiding water-related activities "during periods of high water temperature and low water levels"; and avoiding "digging in or stirring up the sediment" while participating in water activities in shallow water.

Really? Sounds damn close to asking your child to live in a bubble, as it essentially means doing none of the things children take to water to do, such as cannon balls and, hell, just plain old swimming. 

As parents everywhere are certainly giving their condolences to Seitz's family, the story also leaves moms and dads conflicted and guarded (for their children's safety) as summer vacations are planned. 


Image via iStock.com/JohanSjolander

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