Rare Form of Parasitic Meningitis Closes Popular Waterpark in Arkansas

Willow Springs

Parasitic meningitis is caused when Naegleria gruberi gets into the body and attacks brain tissue. (Getty Images)

A popular water park in Arkansas has been shut down after a girl contracted a rare form of parasitic meningitis while swimming in its waters, reports KATV.

The Arkansas Department of Health confirmed that the girl who swam at Willow Springs last week was diagnosed with the brain eating illness and is currently hospitalized. The parasite is commonly found in warm fresh water like lakes, rivers, springs and soil and eats bacteria found in sand, which is at the bottom of the water park. When it enters the human body forcefully through the nose it travels to the brain and destroys the tissue.

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The owners of the park found out that the current case is also connected to the death of a 7-year-old boy in 2010 and had to immediately close the park. The only way to get rid of the parasite would be to turn the bottom of the park’s lake into cement, like a pool.

“You can’t get rid of it,” State epidemiologist, Dirk Haselow says. “So there is really no option to remediate a place that appears to be a hot spot.”

The owner’s of the park, David Ratliff and wife, Lou Ann, used their retirement money to buy the park ten years ago.

Parasitic Meningitis

Willow Springs Water Park

“I have lived my dream for the past 10 years,” Ratliff said. “I think it is probably over.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Arkansas had five cases of the waterborne illness between 1962 and 2012. Florida has had 33 cases in that time period.

The CDC said that people can avoid contracting the parasite by avoid warm bodies of freshwater and poorly maintained swimming pools.

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