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‘Brain-eating’ amoeba claims 12th life in Sindh

‘Brain-eating’ amoeba claims 12th life in Sindh

KARACHI: A young resident of the city’s Mauripur neighbourhood became the newest victim of Naegleria fowleri, also known as ‘brain-eating’ amoeba, bringing the death toll of victims to 12 in Sindh so far this year, officials said on Thursday.

He was the fourth victim of the lethal germ died this month.

The provincial health authorities said a 25-year-old man from Mauripur succumbed to Naegleria fowleri, that causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

The patient was admitted in a ‘serious’ condition to a private hospital on Sunday, where he died on Wednesday. The report of the death was sent to the health officials on Thursday.

“The patient was admitted with fever, headache and vertigo to an ICU of the hospital where he died on Wednesday,” said Dr Zafar Mehdi, who heads the health department committee on Naegleria.

He said the victim was taken to the private hospital when his condition deteriorated.

He was the tenth victim of the deadly disease hailing from Karachi. Two other people who died in hospitals of Karachi were brought from Umerkot and Thatta.

The deadly disease killed 14 people last year.

The appalling rise in the frequency of deaths because of the fatal infection has exposed authorities’ claims of taking adequate measures to curb the horrors of the germ, which killed 34 people in the last three years.

The dangerous amoeba, which survives on bacteria in warm waters and enters into human brain through nasal cavity and eats up its tissues, could only be decimated through proper chlorination or boiling of water.

Constituted by the government in May, a focal group collected samples of water and results showed more than half of the city was supplied with water chlorinated much less than the desired levels. Even the teams found no chlorination at all at more than 90pc of the pumping houses of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) risking the lives of millions in the metropolis.

The authorities’ claim for investing heavily on public awareness campaign vis-à-vis Naegleria has failed to impress anyone as the pamphlets might have changed hands in public places but none of them has been found pasted inside hospitals or inside the ablution places or outside the mosques where people could contract the disease during rinsing their noses with unsafe and poorly chlorinated water.

The officials earlier said the germ could potentially approach the victim’s brain through nasal cavity during ablution at home or in mosques where water supplies were not safely chlorinated or boiled.

Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is defined in medical literature as a rare but typically fatal infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba found in rivers, lakes, springs, drinking water networks and poorly chlorinated swimming pools.

The illness attacks a healthy person, three to seven days after exposure to contaminated water with symptoms of headache and slight fever, in some cases associated with sore throat and rhinitis (commonly called stuffy nose).

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2015

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