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Brain-eating amoeba kills Guilford County man; how to keep yourself safe

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A brain-eating amoeba, a water park and a swim that cost a Guilford County man his life.

Eddie Gray, 59, died less than two weeks after visiting a North Carolina water park with his church group.

The tragedy happened two hours southeast of Greensboro and just south of Fayetteville in the town of Hope Mills.

“It occurs in fresh, warm water and especially when the temperatures remain high for a long period of time,” said Tammy Koonce, communicable disease nurse consultant for the Guilford County Health Department.

Temperatures stayed in the 90s for the first 11 days of July.

It was on the 12th day that Gray spent time in the water at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Hope Mills.

He was on a trip with Sedge Garden United Methodists Church. The church’s senior pastor shared the following with FOX8:

“Our church family is deeply saddened by this loss and our prayers are with the family in this time of grief. Our focus now is offering support and care for all of the family, as well as our larger church family.”

“We haven’t seen any in our particular area in the past five years,” Koonce said, of brain-eating amoeba cases.

There have only been five cases in North Carolina from 1962 to 2018. Across the U.S. that number jumped to 145.

“It’s such a rare occurrence,” Koonce said.

Rare but deadly if water is forced up your nose.

“If they do participate in water activities, if they can do things to protect it from going up their nose such as a nose clip or holding their nose shut,” Koonce said.

Digging or stirring up sediment should also be avoided.

As of Thursday night, Fantasy Lake Water Park remains open. But these signs are now posted cautioning swimmers of the lurking danger.

Gray graduated from Northeast Guilford High School. He was the operations supervisor at UPS.

Gray will be laid to rest Sunday.

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