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Naegleria warning to health officials

Naegleria warning to health officials

KARACHI: The Sindh health department has sent a series of letters to its own officers deputed across the province and officials of the provincial local government department and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) asking them to put the house in order and save lives under immense risk from naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba, it emerged on Thursday.

An 18-year-old girl residing in Gulistan-i-Jauhar in Karachi died last month in a private hospital in Karachi who was later confirmed to be infected with the ‘brain-eating amoeba’, the first victim of the deadly disease this year, which killed 14 people in Sindh last year and 12 of them were resident of Karachi.

Take a look: Naegleria Fowleri: Barricading the brain against the amoeba

The incident set warning bells ringing in the corridors of the authorities concerned who drafted several letters as a follow-up to efforts made to combat the disease in the coming months of summer.

The hot weather conditions are considered to be favourable for the germ that nurtures in warm waters and attacks humans through nasal cavity.

In the warning sent to the senior director of health services of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and all directors of health services across the province, it had been asked that they must be aware of naegleria fowleri, which was a brain-eating amoeba found in freshwater bodies ie, lakes, rivers, hot springs, soil and swimming pools that were poorly maintained, minimally chlorinated and/or un-chlorinated.

They have been asked to take immediate necessary measures, including awareness of medical, paramedical staff and general public as well as sampling from water reservoirs to assess their chlorination status and safety for human consumption.

“Please, ensure that panic at any level may not be created as it may worsen the situation,” the officials were advised in the letter, adding that the risk of naegleria infection was very low and it could not be acquired from a properly cleaned, maintained and disinfected water.

It further said that signs and symptoms of naegleria infection might be overlooked as those closely mimicked other ailments ie meningitis, bacterial or viral or tuberculosis forms, hence all samples drawn in case of suspected meningitis should be examined for naegleria organism.

In a letter to the secretary of local government department, the health ministry drew his attention towards the recent death and 14 deaths reported last year and asked him to ensure presence of residual chlorine in the water being supplied by the KWSB.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015

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