The Little Rock country club where a toddler contracted Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the “brain eating amoeba,” was cited with multiple violations, according to a September 3 Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) report.
The report showed multiple violations related to maintenance and upkeep of the aquatic facility, including chlorine and pH levels that were too high, daily operational records not being kept, and chlorine being hand fed into the pool instead of using the proper equipment.
The report stated the chlorinator for the splash pad was broken, the flow meter to the pool was dysfunctional, and water from a leak in an equipment room was being pumped into a surge pit.
With these recurring issues, the pool and splash pad should not have been opened, the ADH stated, and the pool and splash pad are to remain closed until all of the issues noted in the report have been addressed and are in compliance with regulations.
The ADH warned that if the pool or splash pad opens prior to an inspection that finds the country club completely free of code violations, legal action against the club could take place.
The Country Club of Little Rock is the likely location where 16-monthold Michael Alexander Pollock III contracted the amoeba. The boy died on September 4 after spending a few days in the hospital.
Through investigations involving testing and inspection, the ADH concluded that the individual was likely exposed at the club’s splash pad.
According to a statement from the ADH, the organization sent multiple water samples from the pool and splash pad to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC confirmed that one of the samples contained viable Naegleria fowleri. The department has been in contact with the Country Club of Little Rock, and they have been cooperative in inquiries with the ADH.
The statement goes on to say that there is no ongoing risk to the public related to this exposure.
According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that lives in soil and warm freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, and hot springs.
Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. This generally occurs when people go swimming, diving, or when they put their heads under fresh water.
The amoeba then travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys the brain tissue and causes a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. Infection is almost always fatal.
The CDC considers Naegleria fowleri infections to be rare. From 2013 to 2022, a total of 29 infections were reported in the U.S. at a rate of between 0 and 5 cases per year.
In very rare cases, people have gotten Naegleria fowleri infections from recreational water that had an insufficient amount of chlorine in it, such as pools, splash pads, or surf parks.