The family of an Ohio woman has filed a wrongful death suit against a water park in North Carolina. It alleges that the 18-year-old woman contracted a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which causes the lethal disease meningoencephalitis. This occurred when she was thrown overboard while whitewater rafting at the park. The woman died one week after returning home from the trip in 2016. According to multiple reports, Naegleria fowleri is common in lakes and other bodies of fresh water that are warm. Because it does not effect one who drinks or swallows the infected water, it is very rare that it makes anyone sick. In the case of the Ohio woman, the family alleges that the water entered her body through the nose when she was thrown overboard. The family also argues that the park, located 15 miles outside of Charlotte, did not properly chlorinate the water, failed to warn visitors of potential harm and did not moderate the temperature of the water -- the amoeba thrives in warmer fresh water.
Potential issue here in Louisiana?
This woman is not the only alleged victim of this deadly amoeba, with 29-year-old man contracting it at a surf park in Waco, Texas. We have plenty of fresh water here in Louisiana thanks to the rivers, bayous, lakes as well as pools or water parks. It is also found in such seemingly unlikely sources as hot springs and tap water.
A simple way to avoid contracting the disease is to not submerge one’s head under water. However, try to explain that to swimmers frolicking or exercising. It is highly unlikely that folks here will contract this disease, but this story is a potent reminder to businesses, municipal entities and private residences that provide opportunities for people to swim under water. Whether it is a brain eating disease or something else, they need to provide safe environment for those who visit. If something goes wrong, they could potentially face a premises liability lawsuit.