Surfers live for the perfect wave cresting beneath them. But one surfer from New Jersey is now dead from exposure to a "brain-eating amoeba" he encountered in Waco, Texas, at a resort.
The 29-year-old surfer spent time at the BSR Cable Park's Surf Resort in a landlocked region in Central Texas last month. At some point during his stay, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe he was exposed to the deadly Naegleria fowleri amoeba. He passed away on Sept. 21.
The infection usually begins when a victim takes in water contaminated by the amoeba through the nose. Approximately five days after the exposure, symptoms begin, and the disease typically proves fatal five days after the first symptoms appear. They include:
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
According to reports, the New Jersey man reported severe headaches in the days following his return from the Texas resort. Tests revealed a positive reaction to Naegleria fowleri. The condition has a near-100 percent fatality rate because the amoeba consumes the victims' brain tissue.
Pool closed after incident
The wave pool has since been voluntarily closed to the public while CDC workers conduct tests of the water to detect the source of the threat.
The Public Health District spokesman for Waco-McLennan County spoke with a reported at KBTX-TV and stated, "The CDC collected water samples and are currently investigating to find the source. We hope to have results by the end of the week."
He said that in addition to collecting samples, the CDC "also looked at how the park actually operates: where the water's coming from, how the water's filtered, how the water's treated."
Exposures are rare, almost universally fatal
According to the CDC, the amoeba is found mainly in bodies of warm freshwater, e.g., hot springs, rivers and lakes. From 1962-2017, there have only been 143 individuals in the United States who were infected by the amoeba. Only four victims survived.
The spokesperson for the CDC stated that there have been no other known patients with links to the Waco resort.
In an interview with the Waco Tribune-Herald, the owner of BSR Cable Park acknowledged the victim had spent time in the wave pool at the resort. The owner reportedly has cooperated with health officials investigating the case.
Seeking reparations likely possible
New Jersey residents who suffer ill health or die from similar exposures can typically proceed with civil litigation that may net them a settlement or court judgment. While nothing can ease the pain of losing a beloved spouse, child or other family member, seeking financial recovery after an incident of premises liability can at least help ease survivors' financial burdens.