Evidence of Naegleria fowleri, nicknamed the “brain-eating amoeba,” was discovered on the property of BSR Cable Park and Surf Resort in Texas, according to testing prompted by the death of a Ventnor man to the park this summer.
Fabrizio “Fab” Stabile, 29, of Ventnor, visited BSR this summer and later died after contracting the disease, Waco-McLennan County Public Health District officials said in a statement. Epidemiologic and environmental assessments indicate exposure likely occurred at this facility, health officials said.
Stabile died Sept. 21, according to an obituary in The Press of Atlantic City. Since his death, more than $25,000 has been donated in Stabile’s name, according to a gofundme page. The family created The Fabrizio Stabile Foundation for Naegleria Fowleri Awareness to educate others about the rare infection.
“N. fowleri was identified in the Cable Park but not specifically found in the Surf Resort, Lazy River, or the Royal Flush on the day of sampling,” the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District stated in a release Friday. “Although the N. fowleri was not detected in the Surf Resort, Lazy River, or the Royal Flush, the presence of fecal indicator organisms, high turbidity, low free chlorine levels, and other ameba that occur along with N. fowleri indicate conditions favorable for N. fowleri growth.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted environmental sampling in collaboration with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and the Texas Department of State Health Services. They found evidence of the single-celled organism that causes Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, a rare and devastating brain infection with a more than 97 percent fatality rate at the BSR Cable Park and Surf Resort.
The park’s water venues — Surf Resort, Lazy River and the Royal Flush — are currently closed and will not re-open without consultation from the health district and not before all health and safety issues have been addressed and mitigated appropriately, said Kelly Craine, Waco-McLennan County Public Health District spokesperson. The Cable Park may remain open to the general public, she said.
The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater sites, including lakes, rivers and hot springs. The disease is almost always fatal, and can only enter a person’s body through the nose, not by swallowing contaminated water.
A CDC team collected samples for Naegleria fowleri testing at the water park after it was contacted by the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District for its expertise in the free-living amoeba. The local health district has never had a confirmed case of primary amebic meningoencephalitis.
The last confirmed case in Texas was in 2016.
Only four people out of 143 infected in the United States between 1962 and 2017 have survived, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of the disease start within nine days after swimming or other nasal exposure, and fatality occurs within 18 days after symptoms begin, according to the CDC. Symptoms typically begin with flu-like signs, including a severe front headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck as well as seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations and coma.