Brain-eating amoeba claims two more lives

The image shows patients at a hospital. — Photo by Reuters/File

KARACHI, Oct 7: While senior physicians are still clueless about the spread of much-dreaded ‘brain-eating amoeba’, or Naegleria fowleri, two more deaths from the infection in as many private hospitals have been confirmed by health officials.

With the two newly reported deaths, the total number of patients died due to the brain-eating amoeba reached 10 since May.

The latest known victims of the naegleria fowleri causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) included a three-year-and-nine-month-old boy, who lived in Gulberg Town and died on Sept 30.

A health expert said that it was the high time that physicians and clinicians went beyond book and international researches and deduced any indigenous opinion on the issue.

The dengue surveillance cell of the provincial health department issued the details of the two cases on Sunday.

A 42-year-old man, a resident of Buffer Zone, was admitted to Ziauddin Hospital on Aug 23 with the history of fever, vomiting, and altered consciousness. He died on Aug 26.

The minor boy was admitted to the Habib Medical Centre on Sept 27 and died on Sept 30. Both patients were reported having no history of swimming. Swimming in public pools with improper arrangement for chlorination was believed to be the only cause of contracting the dreaded amoeba infection.

Including the latest victims, 10 people, mostly youths, have fallen prey to the brain-eating amoeba since May.

Officials said that save one, none of the patients died from naegleria so far in the city had the history of swimming.

The focal person of the dengue surveillance cell, Dr Shakeel A. Mullick, told Dawn on Sunday that till Saturday night there was no information either from the hospitals or the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s health officials about the admissions or death of the two patients.

The two deaths due to naegleria have been unearthed by some personnel of the disease early warning system (Dews) of the WHO in Sindh, he said, adding that he was unable to understand why the information related to naegleria infection was not provided by the hospitals concerned on time.

Since May, the Liaquat National Hospital has reported four naegleria positive patients’ death, the Aga Khan University Hospital reported two deaths, Dr Ziauddin Hospital, PNS Shifa Hospital, the Surgeon Munawwar Memorial Hospital and the Habib Medical Centre reported one case each.

The ages of the naegleria victims ranged from about four years to 49 years.

A source in the health department said that a meeting on the subject of naegleria infection had been convened by the provincial health secretary on Monday.What made this infection so terrifying was the fact that it triggered very mild symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, headache and vomiting, which could easily be confused with other non-fatal diseases, the senior physicians noted.

They said that a public service message be prepared jointly by medical and clinical science experts to warn citizens of the naegleria disease.

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1

LARGE_RECTANGLE_BOTTOM - /1029551/Dawn_ASA_Unit_670x280

Comments (8) Closed

Oct 08, 2012 02:47pm
There have been cases from contaminated tap water in Louisiana USA, especially if used to irrigate sinuses, as people might do in wudoo, I would strongly recommend to test the water supply in the victims homes, masjids, hammams, Boiling and filtering water is a must. This is more common after long warm months.
Oct 08, 2012 07:45pm
you know there is a vaccine that are given to kids in US for meningitis
A. Naseer
Oct 08, 2012 07:59pm
That vaccine only covers 4 types of bacterial meningitis and not viral, fungal or amoebic meningitis. This out break is amoebic meningitis.
Oct 08, 2012 11:16am
it is another fatal disease.
Imran Quraishi
Oct 08, 2012 02:23pm
This infectious disease attacks the brain cells of mostly young people only. The problem lies with the water company as they are not using enough chlorine to chlorinate the water. Chlorine is known to kill this amoeba. This amoeba can not harm anyone as long as the nostrils are not exposed. So people should try not to put water inside their nostrils to clean them and even for Wazoo should refrain from exposing the nostrils by pushing the water deep inside the nostrils. Taking a shower with dirty warter is not the problem . The way to prevent this madness is not to let water get inside the nostrils deep inside. . The Infectious Disease Dept should immediately send out a memo and guidelines for the general public about how to wash their face and not to expose the nostrils with water. This is the only way to avoid this brain eating amoeba.Not many people go to swimming pools in Pakistan so that is not the place to look for this amoeba. The problem lies with the water company as they have to get their act together before another innocent young person dies. The incharge of infectious disease dept should by immediately fired for this negligence along with the water company's manager for this gross negligence and not getting the word around fast enough. I hope what I just wrote is published so that people can take the necessary precautions and precious young lives are not lost.
Oct 08, 2012 12:22pm
It lives in fresh water. If water goes deep into your nose you might catch it. Looks like Buffer Zone, Federal B Area and Gulberg have these patients.
Oct 08, 2012 05:36pm
My father-in-law passed away to this Naegleria Fowleri bacteria in 2010. I share a blog post I wrote then, this is in no way to create panic - but the best strategy to be safe is general prevention & awareness - read more FACTS - This is not a parasite but a bacteria which may normally exists in water, mostly found in stagnant water - Exists in water above 42
Usman Lakhani
Oct 08, 2012 11:33am
Not a doctor but cant this thing be caused by showering with dirty water?