KARACHI: Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the ‘brain-eating amoeba’, has claimed the life of its youngest victim — a nine-month-old girl — as the death toll blamed on the deadly amoeba reached six within two months in Sindh, officials said on Wednesday.

They said Mahnoor, a daughter of Mohammad Imran, died in a local hospital two days after she was admitted there in a precarious condition.

The lethal germs infected the girl’s brain through her nasal cavity after she had been given a bath by her family in their house in Railway Housing Society in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Block-13, said a senior official in the provincial health department.

Naegleria threat looms as water lacks chlorine

The officials said she was admitted to the hospital on July 11 and died on July 13. It took them three days to officially confirm that her case belonged to the naegleria attack.

“She is the youngest victim of naegleria since 2012 when the disease emerged,” said a health department official.

“A four-year-old boy was previously the youngest victim who died in 2012.”

The sources said that the neighbourhood, where the fatality had been reported had showed a very low chlorination level in the water supplied through Karachi Water and Sewerage Board pipelines when the samples were recently taken and analysed.

The water analysis of the city showed that more than 40 per cent of the water in the metropolis was supplied with much less than the required chlorine levels, the sources said.

Among the five previous deaths, two belonged to Gulistan-i-Jauhar, the area that previously fell in the erstwhile Gulshan Town.

Five out of six naegleria-related deaths belonged to Karachi while a young man who died early this month in a Karachi private hospital originally came from Hyderabad.

What more disturbed the authorities is that for the first time a victim was reported from outside Karachi and the chlorination levels are even more pathetic in the rest of Sindh.

The first death this year was reported on May 27 in Gulistan-i-Jauhar.

The officials said all victims of the disease had no history of swimming.

Swimming is considered to be one of key factors that caused the primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

“This amoeba can only be eliminated by properly chlorinated water,” said a provincial health department official, who admitted that the water being supplied elsewhere in Sindh was pathetically more dangerous as far as chlorination was concerned.

All hospitals in Sindh have already been asked to carry out examinations for naegleria as well of the patients whom they admitted for suspected meningitis as both the diseases have many similar symptoms.

However, any efforts to improve the performance of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and its counterparts in other Sindh districts are still lacking success.

Maintaining chlorination in water supplied to the city is part of the KWSB responsibilities, which require to be improved at great lengths.

Last year, the disease claimed three lives — a 14-year-old boy in Korangi, a 20-year-old man from Godhra Colony in New Karachi and a 40-year-old man from Lines Area.

The deadly disease had surfaced in the city with extreme lethality in 2012 when it claimed 10 lives.

The ages of the naegleria victims so far ranged from nine months to 49 years.

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

According to a research, only three cases have been reported so far in the medical literature of the world where patients suffering from this infection survived.

Swimming in public pools with improper arrangement for chlorination is believed to be one of the main causes for contracting the dreaded amoeba infection.

These germs travel through the nasal cavity and affect only the brain.

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

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2014

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