Eddie Gray, 59, died Monday from complications related to Naegleria fowleri, also known as the brain-eating amoeba. It's believed Gray contracted the amoeba while visiting Fantasy Lake water park in Hope Mills on July 12, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm fresh water, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's not harmful if it's swallowed, but the amoeba can be fatal if forced up the nose.
"Swimming in and of itself is not so much of concern," Dwayne Holder, director of the Cumberland County, North Carolina, Health Department, told WRAL-TV. "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."
Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection start with severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and progress to stiff neck, seizures and coma, according to a statement from the NCDHHS.
Naegleria fowleri infections remain rare, with only 145 known infected individuals in the U.S. from 1962 through 2018.
Gray family attorney Justin Plummer released the following statement:
"Mr. Gray’s death was tragic and untimely. The family is currently asking for privacy and respect during this difficult time. Otherwise, at this time, the family has no comment."