Deadly brain-eating amoeba resurfaces in Karachi
10 October, 2012
KARACHI: Authorities in Karachi have launched an urgent investigation after a rare waterborne 'brain-eating' amoeba killed 10 people in four months, officials said on Tuesday.
The water company and health officials monitoring water in the city have been ordered to trace the source of the Naegleria fowleri outbreak. Southern Sindh Health Minister Saghir Ahmed said the drinking supply, swimming places and facilities used for the ritual ablutions were all under investigation. "There is no reason to panic and citizens should stay calm and take precautions," he said.
Shakeel Malick, a Health Ministry official, said the amoeba had caused 10 deaths so far this year. He said there have been cases in the past, but so few that detailed numbers were not recorded. The amoeba causes primary amoebic meningitis, a disease with a fatality rate of over 99 percent, said Faisal Mehmood, an expert in infectious diseases.
Naegleria fowleri is found in warm freshwater and usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nasal membranes and destroys brain tissues. Symptoms are initially very mild, including a headache, stiff neck, fever and stomachache. Death usually occurs five to seven days after infection.
Saghir Ahmed said that people should use boiled water for ablutions while the outbreak was going on, as it involved putting water inside the nose. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said nine cases had been confirmed and one more was suspected. It is working with Pakistani officials to investigate the cases and work out steps to prevent further infections.
"We are visiting houses of the victims and profiling their history," Musa Khan, WHO's head of disease early warning system in Pakistan, told AFP.
Authorities are planning an awareness raising campaign among health workers and the public, Khan said. Most health centres had already been alerted, he said.