brightcove.createExperiences(); Authorities are investigating the death of an Ohio teen who may have contracted a brain-eating amoeba during a visit to a popular North Carolina water park.
Lauren Seitz, 18, was visiting the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte during a trip with her church youth group on June 8.
Jim Wilson, senior pastor at Church of the Messiah United Methodist Church in Westerville, Ohio, told WCMH-TV that Lauren was among 32 students who went to North Carolina to sing at churches and nursing homes and visited the water park for fun.
The youth group returned home to Ohio on June 11, and Lauren died on June 19.
“She was an incredible person, so full of life,” Wilson said of Lauren, a recent Westerville South High School graduate who was enrolled at Denison University. According to her obituary, she had declared a minor in music and planned to study environmental science.
Wilson added, They had one day of recreation where they stopped at the U.S. Whitewater Center and went whitewater rafting and they had a grand day.
The Whitewater enter, which is located on the Catawba River, is popular for kayaking and rafting and serves as a training facility for many Olympians.
Mitzi Kline, a spokeswoman for the Franklin County Department of Public Health Department in Ohio, confirmed that it was the brain-eating amoeba in a statement to PEOPLE.
Workers with the Centers for Disease Control arrived at the facility Wednesday to conduct an investigation that includes testing the water.
The scientific term for the amoeba Seitz contracted is primary amebic meningoencephalitis, an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, which is an organism that does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be fatal if forced up the nose. It is naturally present in warm lakes during the summer.
Symptoms of PAM, which include fever, nausea, headache or vomiting and can progress into loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations, begin about five days after infection, according to the CDC. The disease typically causes death within about five days.
In a written statement, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said, The deceased s only known underwater exposure was believed to be when riding in a raft with several others that overturned at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
At a news conference Wednesday, Mecklenburg County Health Director Marcus Plescia told reporters, We think the Whitewater center is as safe as any body of open water. One of the things you have to realize is any time you go swimming in a lake or pond or any open water that s not treated the way a swimming pool is treated, there are things in that water that can cause illness.
In a written statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the facility said, “The U.S. National Whitewater Center conducts water quality tests every week. Based on these tests and all available information, at all times, the USNWC has been in compliance with all required water quality standards and meets the requirements of all regulatory standards and authorities. Furthermore, the USNWC has requested additional testing specific to this issue in an abundance of caution. The USNWC is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and the Mecklenburg County Health Department to investigate the matter further.
Naegleria fowleri infections are rare. According to the CDC, fewer than 10 cases have been reported annually in the United State during the last 53 years. This amoeba can cause severe illness up to nine days after exposure. A person cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water and the amoeba is not found in salt water.
Lauren, who was the drum major in her high school s marching band, was honored Tuesday night with a candlelight vigil.
Her parents, James and Heidi Seitz, established The Lauren Elisabeth Seitz Memorial Music Fund in their daughter s honor.