A New Jersey man has died after contracting a brain-eating parasite he was believed to have come into contact with at a wave pool in Texas, according to reports.
Fabrizio Stabile, 29, fell ill after visiting the pool at BSR Cable Park in Waco in September.
Stabile, an avid outdoorsman with a passion for surfing, snowboarding and fishing, had returned home when he began suffering a severe headache while mowing his lawn on Sept. 16, loved ones said.
He went to bed and took medicine for his headache, but by the following day he was unable to stand or speak in coherent sentences, they said. His mother called 911 and he was rushed to Atlantic City Medical Center.
“At first, Fabrizio’s symptoms (brain swelling and fever) appeared consistent with bacterial meningitis and he was quickly sedated and treated with the appropriate medication and aggressive neurological protocol,” his loved ones wrote on a GoFundMe page. “Unfortunately, Fabrizio was not responding to these measures and his condition was rapidly deteriorating.”
Tests came back on Sept. 20, showing Stabile tested positive for Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that typically occurs in warm fresh water and that had caused a rare infection.
“The worst-case scenario was unfolding in front of our eyes as we learned that this infection results in a 98% fatality rate,” the GoFundMe page said. “By the time Fabrizio was diagnosed, it was too late to administer the drug that had previously been provided to three of the only five known survivors in North America. Even so, this drug is not easily accessible.”
Stabile was pronounced brain dead on Friday, Sept. 21. He was laid to rest last Thursday.
Known to family and friends as “Fab,” his love for the outdoors led Stabile to work for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Bass Pro Shops, his obituary read.
“With great sadness and heavy hearts, we mourn the loss of a FABulous associate,” the shop said on Facebook. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Stabile family.”
BSR Cable Park closed Friday while the CDC conducted tests for Naegleria fowleri.
“The CDC collected water samples and are currently investigating to find the source,” Kelly Craine, a spokeswoman for Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, told CBS. “We hope to have results by the end of the week.”
The owner of the resort, Stuart E. Parsons Jr., said he will comply with requests related to the investigation of Stabile’s death, noting the resort is in compliance with the CDC’s “guidelines and recommendations concerning Naegleria fowleri.”
“Our hearts and prayers are with his family, friends and the New Jersey surf community during this difficult time,” Parsons told CBS.
Stabile’s family has created the Fabrizio Stabile Foundation for Naegleria Fowleri Awareness “to bring awareness to, and educate as many people as possible about, this rare and preventable infection,” they said on GoFundMe.
As of Monday, the GoFundMe page created for the foundation had raised more than $22,000.
What Is Naegleria fowleri?
Naegleria fowleri is commonly referred to as “brain-eating amoeba” is a free-living microscopic amoeba that is commonly found in warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs. It can also be found in in soil.
The amoeba can infect people when it enters the body through the nose. From the nose, it can travel to the brain and cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, the CDC noted.
PAM is almost always fatal. Only four people out of 143 have survived infection in the U.S. from 1962 to 2017, the CDC said.
Symptoms start between one and nine days after swimming or other nasal exposure to Naegleria-containing water. PAM is difficult to detect because the disease progresses rapidly, so diagnosis is usually made after death, the CDC said.
The infection is very rare, as about 35 cases have been reported in the U.S. in the last decade, officials said. Swallowing water contaminated by the amoeba cannot cause the infection.