Barefoot Ski Ranch (BSR) Surf Resort owner Stuart E. Parsons Jr. told the Waco Tribune Friday that the park had voluntarily closed its wave pool so the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could test it for the rare but deadly Naegleria fowleri amoeba.
Surfer Fabrizio "Fab" Stabile, from Pleasantville, New Jersey, died on September 21 as a result of being infected by the tiny creatures, according to his obituary in the Press of Atlantic City. He had visited the surf resort only days before passing away.
The previous weekend, the resort played host to the Stab High aerial surf competition, but it's unclear if Stabile attended that competition. Parsons said earlier this year the park had 250,000 visitors the previous summer but hoped for 50 percent growth, since the new surf resort opened in time for this past summer's pool season.
CDC spokesperson Candice Burns Hoffmann told the Waco Tribune the agency is assisting the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District in investigating the potential presence of Naegleria fowleri in the pool. Texas hasn't seen a case of the infection in several years.
"A small CDC team collected samples for Naegleria fowleri testing and will be working with the health department on recommendations to provide the facility on how to reduce potential exposures," Hoffmann said. "Preliminary testing results should be ready later next week."
The park will stay closed until results come back from the investigation, WFAA in Dallas reported.
According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that lives in warm fresh water. It infects humans only through the nose, which typically happens when someone dives or their head goes underwater. Through the nose, the amoeba travels into the person's brain and destroys their brain tissue.
"You cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water," the agency makes clear.
Early symptoms of infection look similar to bacterial meningitis, a far more common ailment than Naegleria fowleri: headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness or pain, and confusion or lack of attention to people or surroundings. Later symptoms include loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.
The CDC reports that death occurs in 97 percent of people infected with Naegleria fowleri and that no treatment yet exists that can cure it. From the start of symptoms until death, the infection usually only lasts around five days, although it can be as fast as one day or as long as 12. Only four people out of 143 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2017 have survived, WFAA noted.