COLUMBUS (WCMH) – One year after a Westerville girl died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba, her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
The family of 18-year-old Lauren Seitz filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lauren died from meningoencephalitis, a disease caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.
According to the lawsuit, Seitz contracted the amoeba while whitewater rafting at the US National Whitewater Center. She was thrown overboard, causing her nose and head to go completely under water.
Three days after returning home, the lawsuit says she began complaining about sinus congestion. Two days later, she was hospitalized.
Seitz died from the infection on June 19, 2016, 11 days after visiting the Whitewater Center.
The lawsuit claims the Whitewater Center failed to properly chlorinate the water, failed to properly regulate the temperature of the water and failed to warn visitors about the possible danger of the amoeba.
According to the lawsuit, chlorine levels at the facility were ten times lower than they should have been.
The lawsuit also claims the facility used an inadequate filter system.
The plaintiffs are asking for more than $450,000 in damages, as well as punitive damages of more than $1 million.
WNCN reported the amoeba levels in the water at the Whitewater Center were unprecedented.
According to CDC findings, the amoeba was found in 11 out of 11 samples tested from the Whitewater Center.
The scientific name of the “brain-eating” amoeba is Naegleria fowleri, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It “is commonly found in warm freshwater (e.g. lakes, rivers, and hot springs) and soil.” It can also occur when contaminated water from other sources, such as “inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water,” enters through the nose. The CDC says it cannot be contracted by swallowing tainted water.
It causes a “rare and devastating” infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis that is almost always fatal.
Symptoms start 1-9 days after the water is ingested, the CDC says. Early symptoms can include a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. More severe symptoms can include a stiff neck, seizures, altered mental states, hallucinations, and coma.