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McCrory Wants Review of Whitewater Center Regs, But Can Anything Keep Out Ameba?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Governor Pat McCrory is calling for a total review of the U.S. National Whitewater Center's oversight after preliminary tests found a microorganism that may be linked to a woman's death. McCrory made the comments to the Charlotte Observer on Monday. But Mecklenburg County's health director doesn't know if better regulation would help in this case.

The Whitewater Center in Charlotte shut down its whitewater activities last week after preliminary tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found what’s best known as the "brain-eating ameba."

The CDC reports that ameba is actually quite common in warm, open bodies of water like lakes and rivers. The brain infection that can result from it is incredibly rare.

At a press conference, Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Marcus Plescia was asked if there’s some kind of regulation that would affect its presence.

“That's the challenge,” he replied. “Is it really reasonable or feasible to expect that we could regulate a body of water like this in such a way that we could eliminate that organism? I don't know the answer to that right now. And that's one of the challenges around looking at regulation: what is it that we're regulating, and what are we looking to accomplish?”

Governor Pat McCrory told the Charlotte Observer the state needs to reexamine whether the Whitewater Center should be regulated like a swimming pool, which would lead to outside testing.

But no local regulators have the ability to test for the ameba. That’s partly why the CDC sent epidemiologists here from Atlanta. They came after a young woman from Ohio died of the brain infection, and her only known exposure to warm freshwater was at the Whitewater Center.

Dr. Plescia says he understands the call for regulations after the tragedy. Still, he emphasizes it may not be possible to eradicate the ameba and there’s very little risk of infection.

According to CDC data over the last decade, an average of fewer than four people per year have been infected in all of the United States.