Brain-eating Naegleria turns into nightmare
22 October, 2012
KARACHI: Naegleria, generally known as an amoeba that eats brain, has become a nightmare for Karachiites as it has claimed as many as 10 precious lives so far that compelled the residents of Karachi to take it seriously.
Though proper treatment has yet to be made against this disease, it could be averted by taking some simple preventive measures.
In this regard, the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) has established a Monitoring Cell on emergency basis to ensure that water supply to the citizens of Karachi is as per international benchmarks and according to WHO standards.
However, the basic purpose of all these operations is to keep the citizens of Karachi safe from Naegleria Fowleri parasite.
Talking to our sources on Sunday, KWSB Managing Director Misbahuddin Farid said that today he took more than 100 samples of water out of which 98% were satisfactory as KWSB was properly chlorinating water and ensuring that the water supply did not contain any contamination or bacteria.
He further said, "All reported deaths due to Naegleria are of men as not a single woman was affected by this virus, which depicted that virus is not present in home water. "It must be in swimming pool or other water places," KWSB is working with health department and other elected MPs and thanks to Almighty Allah for situation under control."
Farid said that he invited NGOs and other relevant department to join hand with KWSB to eliminate it further.
Consultant Infectious Diseases Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood informed how Naegleria works? He said that Naegleria causes a very unusual form of brain infection, which could be Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) that leads to the destruction of brain tissues and brain swelling. He said, "Initial signs of PAM are headache, fever, anorexia, vomiting and later progress to a stiff neck, altered mental status, seizures and coma."
According to Dr Mahmood, PAM is a serious disease for which no effective treatment exists anywhere in the world. He further informed that amoeba-killing medicines were always given to patients, these usually did not work and chances of death occurs almost 99 per cent of the time. Few Naegleria cases have yet been reported worldwide but in Karachi, it was increased very fast
Consultant Clinical Microbiologist Dr Afia Zafar said that Naegleria was commonly found in warm freshwaters such as lakes, ponds and rivers. "It is a heat-loving microbe, which multiplies well at temperature from 28 to 40 degrees centigrade and tolerates up to 45 degrees centigrade." It was less likely to be found in the water as temperature turns down. Naegleria was not found in salt water, such as seawater.
"In Karachi, unfortunately, due to compromised chlorination of domestic water supply, the disease is not only limited to children, but many healthy males between the ages of 16 and 42 years are contracting it," she said.
She advised the public to clean overhead and underground water tanks twice a year and fill it with chlorinated water (0.5 ppm of residual chlorine is required at domestic level that can be increased up to 1ppm if water looks turbid); only swim in well maintained and properly chlorinated swimming pools; not to allow children to play with hoses or sprinklers as they may accidentally squirt water up their noses; and not to jump or duck dive into warm fresh water without closing the nose or using the nose clip.