KARACHI, Aug 1: Despite tall claims about taking effective measures to keep Naegleria fowleri in check, the civic agencies concerned still have to do a lot of work to save precious lives since a large quantity of water supplied to the city is still shockingly unhealthy and prone to assist the growth of ‘brain-eating’ amoeba, it emerged on Thursday.
A focal group, including the provincial and metropolitan health departments, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and public health engineering department officials, has been working since May to collect and test samples of water being supplied to the city and take efficacious measures to improve its quality.
The focal group, which has been collecting and testing water samples, has so far worked as a reporting body. This is evident from the fact that the figures released by it at the end of July are strikingly similar to what Dawn had gotten a month earlier in June. The group’s tasks include keeping chlorine at the ‘desired level’ across the metropolis and this is yet to be achieved.
Naegleria claimed two lives in May. The first death had prompted the authorities to set up the focal group while the other occurred after it was set up. The last death was reported on June 29 — the day when the focal group reported that the city’s 41 per cent had insufficient chlorine.
Meanwhile, the group’s latest report shows that officials collected around 2,311 samples of water from various parts of the city, out of which they found 1,357 samples containing chlorine equal to or more than 0.25 parts per million (ppm) — a minimum desired level of chlorination.
“The figure shows at least 58.72 per cent of the city is being supplied with satisfactorily chlorinated water,” said an official working in the group.
However, the rest of 41.28 per cent samples of water had insufficient amount of chlorine. Some 85 samples showed no chlorination at all, while 869 had it at less than the desired level, said sources.
They said the focal group started sampling and testing on May 25 and the results of the abovementioned 2,311 samples — collected till July 29 — have been shared with Dawn.
But sources told Dawn said the samples collected belonged to almost every neighbourhood of the city except for Lyari and the same situation had been reported before as well. But according to the official, the amount of chlorine in water there was sufficient.
“Although the law and order situation is not good in Lyari, the area has water with satisfactory quantity of chlorine as it had been reported earlier,” said the official.
Meanwhile, samples collected from a number of graveyards and several mosques did not have any chlorine, said officials.
Officials admitted that the results were highly alarming and showed no improvement despite incessant claims by the authorities. “The situation is not improving. Everyone has to contribute their due share to make it happen. Not a single body, but every authority is responsible for lack of commitment,” said a senior official.
The authorities understood that chlorine was available in sufficient quantity, it was execution of a proper strategy that was lacking.
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.
These germs travel through the nasal cavity and only affect the brain. 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).
Naegleria fowleri had fatally emerged in May 2012 and continued to affect and kill people till October. It killed at least 10 people in Karachi last year, according to official records.