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Chlorination not up to the mark in Islamabad

October 18, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Oct 17: The civic administration’s Water Testing Laboratory has recommended proper and regular chlorination of water supplied to residents in Islamabad, as a preventive measure against the deadly water-borne disease that has been claiming lives in Karachi.

The disease has not spread to Islamabad as no cases have been reported so far.

Naegleria fowleri commonly referred to as  ‘brain-eating amoeba,’ is a single cell organism found in fresh and warm water such as swimming pools, lakes and rivers – to mention some – has claimed nearly a dozen lives in Karachi in the last two weeks.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease was believed to be breeding in the water supply lines of the city.

The spread of the brain eating amoeba that had been making news, finds its way through the nose mostly to the inside of the head, where it then attacks the brain.

“People can be at risk from the life threatening organism when they wash their faces or rinse their noses when they perform ablution,” said an official in the Water Testing Lab, CDA.

Officials in the Water Testing Lab, who called for immediate precautionary measures, did not rule out the possibility of the disease spreading to other cities.

“It is a fairly new disease and little is known about its trend. The current procedure of chlorination of water supplied to the citizens in Islamabad is unsatisfactory. And we must take prevention measures should the disease spread,” said the official source explaining how water in the tanks and taps in homes was not germ free.

Recommending that citizens should boil water before consuming it, the official lamented how regular chlorination was not being done at Simli dam, 10 other water works and tubewells through which water was supplied to the residents of Islamabad.

According to the official water supplied through filtration plants was as unsafe to drink as other sources.

“The operations of the filtration plants were outsourced to private contractors over a year ago, who do not have any knowledge of how to maintain the plants.

The civic body should ensure that not a single drop of non-chlorinated water is provided to the people,” the official added, asserting that water from the filtration plants was equally unsafe for human consumption.

Director Water Management, Capital Development Authority, Zulfiqar Jadoon was not aware of the brain disease spreading from Karachi.

“But we will like to state that proper chlorination is done at all water works before it reaches homes to consumers,” said Zulfiqar Jadoon who directed questions back to the water testing laboratories of CDA for confirmation on the subject.

Nonetheless, Dr Musa Rahim Khan, who works for WHO’s Disease Early Warning System (DEWS) and has been monitoring the deadly threat since it surfaced in Karachi earlier this month, said it was less likely that the disease would spread to other parts of the country like the epidemics in the past such as dengue or Swine Flu.

“But it is a free living microscopic organism that causes a rare but severe and fatal infection in the brain with no cure to save its victim’s life. Yes precautions must be taken to prevent all other water-borne diseases that too can be fatal,” said Dr Musa Khan.

He explained how very few cases had been reported worldwide. “However, this is the second time the disease has surfaced in Karachi since 2008.

The infection typically occurs when people go swimming in inadequately chlorinated pools or other warm freshwater places (in lakes etc) or in rare cases when contaminated tap water enters the nose,” said the expert.