Stab Magazine | Surfer Dies From Rare Amoeba, Investigation Into Source Underway

Surfer Dies From Rare Amoeba, Investigation Into Source Underway

BSR Cable Park voluntarily ends season early, as CDC and authorities look for source of avid surfer and kayaker’s fatal infection. 

news // Sep 30, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Heavy news out of New Jersey and Waco today, after a surfer, Fabrizio O. Stabile, age 29, died at the Atlantic City Medical Center following a brief, and sudden illness called Naegleria Fowleri.

According to family,Fabrizio was an avid outdoorsman. He loved snowboarding, surfing, and anything to do with friends and family. Overall he had a keen love for fishing. This love led him to work for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Bass Pro Shops…Fabrizio will be remembered as someone with a contagious smile, who could lift the spirits of anyone and everyone he talked to. To know Fab was to love Fab.”

The water-borne virus, also known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, involves symptoms similar to bacterial meningitis, and is contracted in warm, fresh water. With Stabile having recently visited the BSR Cable Park in Texas, the CDC contacted BSR, who promptly shut down operations of the pool so the CDC could thoroughly test.

Kelly Craine, Waco-McLennan County Public Health District spokesperson, told the Waco Tribune “the park voluntarily closed Friday pending the investigation. One person from out of state has been infected by the amoeba, and officials are investigating the source.”

The amoeba is introduced to bodies of water most often through soil, tracked in as mud or as run off from nearby lands, and can be present one day, and gone the next, with incredibly rare incidents of infections. 

McLennan County has never had a confirmed case of primary amebic meningoencephalitis, Craine told the Waco Tribune. The last confirmed case in Texas was in 2016. “It’s very, very, very rare, very rare,” she said.

According to the CDC, the rare infection “typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose. You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.”

Symptoms include Headache, Stiff Neck, Nausea, Vomiting, Hallucinations, Altered Mental status, and Coma. With Stab High recently completed, Stab contacted surfers and guests and received no reports of symptoms or infection. With the CDC looking into what water bodies Stabile came in contact with to find the source of the amoeba, BSR has closed the pool early for the season, erring on the side of caution. 

“On a personal side of things, I feel terrible for the family, and it’s such a shame,” Cheyne Magnusson tells Stab. “My heart goes out to the family. And to the people who are understandably worried, I’ve been in the water everyday since we opened. I’ve cut myself, I’ve bumped myself, we’re in there all the time.  But it’s like the ocean, you’re dealing with a body of water.”

The pool—which many have noted for its dyed-blue color, is chlorinated, shocked bi-weekly with a number of chemicals all in compliance with the CDC, and tested thoroughly by BSR. While the pool is freshwater, it is maintained as a swimming lake, not a recreational pool. Moving forward, BSR will install a state-of-the-art filtration system, and the wave pool will be classified and maintained as a swimming pool. 

“The reason it doesn’t have filtration, is because it isn’t considered a pool. It’s considered a lake,” Magnusson, the park’s General Manager clarifies. “It has water flowing into it and out of it. They were treating it the same way they do all the bodies of water here. In the ocean you have sharks, you get staph. In fresh water you have to deal with these sorts of issues. I don’t think there’s any way of avoiding it entirely, but we’re taking all the necessary steps to make it the absolute safest it can be.”

With this incident the first of its kind in our Wave Pool Age, surely other pools will follow suit, as far as the addition of thorough filtration systems regardless of classification. 

“Our thoughts go out to the surfer’s family, it’s terrible.,” says BSR Owner Stuart Parsons. “Since this situation came about, we spoke with the CDC guys and the local health officials, and we’re going to be treating this as a swimming pool. So we aren’t taking any risks, we immediately shut it down, and we’re gonna put top of the line filtration, the whole deal. We’re doing the whole thing to the letter.”

BSR will close earlier than schedule for the winter, and hope to reopen as scheduled in March, upon the completion of the new filtration system and any other measures can be taken to assure the pool’s safety. The CDC’s reports are forthcoming and should be available early this week; BSR tells Stab it will be incredibly transparent with the result’s of the CDC’s testing. At this time, no other infections have been reported.






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