Lab results find brain-eating amoeba in one area of BSR

Posted at 4:36 PM, Sep 30, 2018
and last updated 2019-04-17 14:57:59-04

An out-of-state patient diagnosed with a brain-eating amoeba prompted the closure of a Waco water park. Testing done by the CDC found evidence of the brain-eating amoeba at the Cable Park but not in the Surf Resort, Lazy River or the Royal Flush. 

The Waco McLennan County Health District released lab results from the testing that found evidence of Naegleria fowleri, the single-celled brain-eating amoeba. The amoeba was identified in the Cable Park, but the district said that it was not found in the Surf Resort, Lazy River or the Royal Flush. 

Originally, BSR had said that the tests found no presence of the amoeba, but the health district says the exposure a man in New Jersey most likely occurred at this facility. 

The district said, "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." 

BSR's Surf Resort, Lazy River and Royal Flush are closed and will not re-open until a consultation with the health district. The Cable Park will remain open to the public, as the water in the Cable Park is a natural body of water. 

BSR released this statement:

"BSR SURF RESORT, Lazy River & Royal Flush slide WATER TESTS COME BACK CLEAN Installation of State of-the-Art Filtration System Already Underway; BSR Determined to Go the Extra Mile, Set Highest Standards for Safety

First and foremost, on behalf of the entire staff at BSR Surf Resort, our hearts and prayers are with Fab Stabile’s family, friends, and the New Jersey surf community. A precious life has been lost, and we are deeply saddened for his loved ones.

For the past two weeks, increased awareness of this incredibly rare disease, Naegleria fowleri, has swept the globe. What will come of all this news coverage and commentary? At BSR Surf Park, we are determined it will help save lives.

Although comprehensive test results have now confirmed that the water at BSR Surf Resort meets every standard for safety, today I am announcing that we are going the extra mile and hiring a North Carolina firm to install a state-of-the-art filtration system to make our water in the surf, on lazy river, and at the Royal Flush slide is as clear and clean as humanly possible. It will take us to February to complete the installation of this new filtration system working very closely with local, state and CDC officials.

There are only a few of these man-made surf parks in the country today, but many more will be built. Our goal is to set the highest standard for these facilities. Going forward, BSR Surf Resort will have the cleanest water anywhere in the United States.

I built this water destination resort so people of all ages could learn to surf and wakeboard — and then go home safely to their families. We take pride in our park and the safety of every guest. And to be clear, it’s not just the guests that use the park. It’s also my family, our friends, and our employees that essentially live in our water. My two year-old twins play on that beach, and — as kids do — they drink the water every time.

So you better believe my cousin, who tests and treats the water every day, is damn sure no one gets sick.

BSR wants to thank everyone that has supported us from the start, and believed in what we are trying to do. We want to make people happy — and safe — and that’s what we are going to continue to do.

We will update you on our progress through social media and our webpage, and look forward to seeing everyone soon with clear, blue, clean water."

BSR Surf Resort voluntarily closed after the CDC required testing of its waters after learning that a New Jersey man, who recently died, had been a guest at the park. 

The amoeba, also known as Naegleria fowleri, is "incredibly rare," but is naturally occurring in warm, fresh and sometimes stagnant water. 

The amoeba infects people when it enters the body through the nose, causing Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis. 

The disease, according to the CDC, is almost always fatal, with only four people out of 143 cases have survived the infection. 

Symptoms of the amoeba are similar to bacterial meningitis. Symptoms of the disease typically begin one to nine days after the amoeba has entered the body, with people dying one to 18 days after symptoms begin. 

The environmental sample results, including physical and chemical water quality and biological test results, are described in Table 1. Naegleria fowleri was detected in the large-volume ultrafiltration water sample and sediment sample collected at the Cable Park where the drain from the Lil’ Bro enters the Cable Park pond. Viable thermophilic ameba were detected in samples collected from the reservoir, Surf Resort, Royal Flush, and Cable Park, and are pending analyses for identification. A free chlorine residual was not detectable in the reportedly treated Surf Resort or Lazy River. The turbidity of the Surf Resort, Lazy River, Royal Flush, and reservoir were 558, 20.6, 5.31, and 2.36 NTU, respectively (as reference, the EPA drinking water treatment standard is 0.5 NTU). Total coliform and enterococci were detected in the reportedly treated reservoir water (as reference, the EPA drinking water treatment standard is <1 total coliform MPN/100 ml). Total coliforms were detected in the Royal Flush and Lazy River water, and enterococci were detected in the Surf Resort water.

The presence of fecal indicator organisms (total coliforms, enterococci), viable thermophilic ameba, and high turbidity indicate a treatment failure, and when the water is warm, would create conditions amenable to Naegleria fowleri growth. Detection of Naegleria fowleri on the property indicates the potential for the ameba to enter other surface water bodies on the property through various routes (i.e., soil, run-off, person transfer, etc.). The unprotected surface water reservoir supplying the water bodies is susceptible to soil intrusion and warm water through radiant heating. Moreover, the reservoir is supplied by ground water; studies have shown ground water can contain Naegleria fowleri (Bright and Gerba 2017)*

"Those conditions include a low free chlorine content which means there was no chlorine available to disinfect,' said Kelly Craine with the Waco McLennan County Public Health District. "We also know the water had a high turbidity. It was not clear, it was cloudy.  There was also fecal matter, bacteria in the water and all of these go toward creating an environment that makes the amoeba happen."

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