Ohio Teen Died from a Naegleria Fowleri Infection, Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina

When a person goes on a trip, the last thing he or she expects is to suffer is a serious infection. Unfortunately, sometimes these instances arise, and their outcomes are costly. For one family in Ohio, the loss was catastrophic. An Ohio teen, celebrating her graduation, fell victim to an infection that caused her death. Her family filed a lawsuit against the party they believe is responsible.

Ohio Teen Loses Her Life To Infection After Rafting Incident

Lauren Seitz, an Ohio high school graduate, lost her life on a celebratory trip to a whitewater rafting facility in Charlotte, North Carolina last year. Seitz went on a trip to Whitewater Center in North Carolina to enjoy some fun after graduating high school. During her trip, her raft had tipped over, throwing her overboard. She returned home from the trip and died just a week later from a rare but deadly infection known as meningoencephalitis, an extremely rare disease caused by a waterborne amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. While the amoeba is common to lakes and other freshwater, it is very rare that anyone gets sick from it. In fact, if anyone drinks or swallows water containing it, they won’t become infected, however, if the amoeba enters through the nose, an infection can occur. This infection, unfortunately, claimed Seitz’s life. The center was closed down for a brief period to examine a solution to the problem and to trace it to the source. Officials suspected that the amoeba was contracted directly from the facility.

Contraction of Naegleria fowleri has a fatality rate of 97 percent, with only four out of 143 known infected cases in the United States surviving an infection. In addition to fresh water, the amoeba may be found in seawater, pipes, hot springs, and swimming pools under poor maintenance.

The Family’s Lawsuit

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit names the U.S. National Whitewater Center of Charlotte, North Carolina as the defendant. The lawsuit makes the claim that the facility not only failed to warn visitors of possible dangers of contracting this amoeba, but also failed to properly treat the water to prevent the presence of these amoebae in the first place.

The Whitewater Center defended itself, citing that these amoebae can be common in fresh water. However, the attorneys representing the Seitz family fired back claiming that combinations of high concentration of the amoeba with a strong likelihood of a person being submerged and exposure to high-velocity water places a risk that is higher than normal for exposure to Naegleria fowleri in natural environments. The family is seeking punitive damages in the amount of $1 million for their loss.

An Amoebic Infection Can Happen to Anyone

These amoebae survive in the Southeast, where freshwater and seawater is warm, and as such, several cases of Naegleria fowleri infections have been reported in Georgia, too. As in North Carolina, many residents and tourists like to enjoy the water-related recreational activities that Georgia has to offer, even where the amoeba has been known to be present or may be lurking. The CDC provides tips how to protect yourself from an amoebic infection:

  • Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater or seawater when the water temperature is high.
  • Avoid stirring up the sediment in shallow, warm freshwater or seawater areas.

If you or a loved one has been infected by a pathogen or other harmful substance, and you believe it is due to the negligence of another party, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately.