Olympic training facility closed due to brain-eating bacteria

The amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, is harmless if swallowed, but it can travel up a person's nose to the brain, where it destroys tissue.


The U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center, which hosted the Olympic trials for U.S. canoers and kayakers, has temporarily suspended aquatic operations after public health officials discovered a rare brain-eating amoeba in the facility's water channels.

An Ohio teenager who visited the center in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this month died of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), an infection caused by Naegleria Fowleri, an amoeba found in freshwater bodies of water during warm weather.

The amoeba is harmless if swallowed, but it can travel up a person's nose to the brain, where it destroys tissue. It is extremely rare - only 133 cases have been reported since 1962, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - but is almost always fatal. Only three of those people survived.

Although authorities are not sure if the victim, Lauren Seitz, contracted the amoeba at the USNWC, the Charlotte Observer reported that public health officials found Naegleria Fowleri in most of the 11 water samples taken at the center this week.

The center issued a statement on Friday, which read: "The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC), after discussion with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local health officials, has decided to temporarily suspend all whitewater activities effective immediately."

"This decision was made by the Whitewater Center after initial test results found Naegleria Fowleri DNA was present in the whitewater system. The USNWC is working with the CDC and local health officials to develop next steps.

"Only whitewater activities are suspended. The USNWC remains open for all other operations and activities."

Support Sportstar

Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.