PMA urges people to take precautions to avoid ‘brain-eating’ amoeba

Published July 15, 2021
Naegleria fowleri is a rare but deadly waterborne amoeba that thrives in freshwater sources, reservoirs including poorly chlorinated water networks. — Dawn/File
Naegleria fowleri is a rare but deadly waterborne amoeba that thrives in freshwater sources, reservoirs including poorly chlorinated water networks. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Wednesday asked the people of Karachi to take preventive measures to avoid becoming a victim of Naegleria fowleri — a rare but deadly waterborne amoeba that thrives in freshwater sources, reservoirs including poorly chlorinated water networks — to drink boiled water and not to wash face or bathe with polluted water.

PMA representatives Dr Qaiser Sajjad, Dr Samreen Sarfaraz and Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro expressed these views at a press conference here at PMA House on Wednesday.

They demanded that the government make sure to supply chlorinated water to citizens to avoid any untoward situation.

“Naegleria fowleri is a serious health issue. Recently, six deaths have been reported, five of them were from Karachi and one was from Balochistan, who also died in Karachi during treatment,” they said.

Suggests use of boiled water and avoiding non-chlorinated swimming pools

They added: “We fear that unreported deaths would be higher than the reported ones. Unfortunately, safe water is not available to the vast majority of our population. People are compelled to consume contaminated water that causes waterborne diseases like typhoid, gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, E and cholera.

“The chief justice should take suo motu notice on this matter. It’s criminal negligence and responsible officials should be punished. We know that water has not been chlorinated at all for many years,” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar heading PMA-Sindh chapter, adding that the general practitioners should be trained in disease diagnosis.

“This contaminated water also carries a Naegleria fowleri amoeba which enters into the brain through nostrils and starts damaging it and causes meningoencephalitis, which is fatal in 95 per cent cases and affected person dies eventually.

“Naegleria fowleri is found all over in moist soil, freshwater bodies, poorly chlorinated swimming pools and water supplying pipes. When water contaminated with Naegleria is sucked through the nose during bathing, rinsing the nose and ablution, it invades olfactory neuroepithelium and rapidly destroys brain tissue, which causes severe meningoencephalitis within 1-9 days,” they said.

‘Chlorination in city is questionable’

“The initial symptoms of the disease were headache, body ache, high-grade fever, drowsiness, fainting and coma,” they said, adding: “PMA is concerned over the fact that Naegleria fowleri has been reported from water being supplied by Karachi Water & Sewerage Board. The filtration and chlorination of potable water provided in the city is questionable.”

They said that the water distribution system was faulty allowing seepage of sewage in the domestic water supply, which got contaminated and caused harmful diseases.

Besides, people should not have gone to non-chlorinated swimming pools, they added.

The PMA representatives asked the people to put chlorine tablets (one tablet in 1,000 gallons of water) in their underground tanks.

They said water tanks at homes, hospitals, schools, shopping malls and offices should be cleaned once a year.

They said chlorine price had climbed higher these days but people could use two tablespoons of bleach powder, make paste of it with water and put it into their water tanks at night. This would be enough for 500 to 1,500 gallons of water and kill Naegleria.

The PMA requested all doctors, particularly general practitioners, to take it seriously if a patient came to them with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headache and high-grade fever. Such a patient should be tested for Naegleria.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2021

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