CHARLOTTE, NC (WBIR) - Health officials suspect an Ohio teen died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba infection after visiting the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte last week.

Lauren Seitz's parents say their daughter did not swim in Columbus during the incubation period. However, she went to Charlotte for a trip and visited the Whitewater Center.

Seitz, 18, was visiting the Whitewater Center with her church's youth music ministry group. On Wednesday, the Whitewater Center remained open under normal business operations.

The suspected cause of death was attributed to Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, a one-celled organism that does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be fatal if forced up the nose. According to North Carolina health officials, the teen's only known underwater exposure was believed to be when riding in a raft with several others that overturned at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, officials said. According to the CDC, fewer than 10 cases have been reported annually in the United State during the last 53 years. This ameba can cause severe illness up to nine days after exposure. A person cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water and the ameba is not found in salt water.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department, CDC, Ohio Department of Public Health, Franklin County (Ohio) Public Health Department, the U.S. National Whitewater Center and the North Carolina Division of Public Health are collaborating on the investigation.

In warmer areas where this infection has been more common, recommended precautions include:

  • Limit the amount of water going up your nose. Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in warm freshwater-related activities.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm fresh water during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm fresh water areas.

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