Barefoot Ski Ranch Surf Resort opened just months ago in the Waco area, but it closed again after a park visitor died from a rare brain infection. New Jersey resident Fabrizio Stabile encountered Naegleria fowleri, also known as the "brain-eating amoeba" and died five days later.

More on Naegleria Fowleri

The single-celled organism thrives in warm, wet environments. It grows best at temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit and can survive temperatures that go even higher. The amoeba is usually found in warm freshwaters like rivers and lakes. It's possible that the East Texas heat turned the clear blue pools at BSR Surf Resort into a hospitable environment.

The amoeba doesn't usually eat brains, it consumes other bacteria found in sediment. The only way people can "catch" it is to inhale the organism through the nose.

From there, an inhaled Naegleria fowleri travels through the olfactory nerve to the brain. When it uses the brain as a food source, humans experience primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The disease causes brain swelling and, 97 percent of the time results in death.

Infection Symptoms

Symptoms start between two and 15 days after inhalation. At first, symptoms are like a cold with headache, fever and nausea. As the infection progresses victims may have confusion, a loss of balance, seizures and coma.

The disease can't be spread from person to person. It only happens when the amoeba is inhaled, not from swallowing contaminated water.

About Fabrizio "Fab" Stabile

The New Jersey resident was only 21 years old and described by friends as an avid outdoorsman. He loved to surf and visited BSR Surf Resort while he was on vacation. When he went home he was mowing his lawn when he had to lie down because of a sudden, severe headache. The next day he couldn't get out of bed or speak, so his parents rushed him to the hospital.

Symptoms at first indicated bacterial meningitis, but he didn't respond when the hospital administered treatment. Further testing found Naegleria fowleri in his cerebrospinal fluid. He died on September 21. The Fabrizio Stabile Foundation has been created in his memory to raise awareness of this rare and preventable infection.


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