Friday September 29, 2023

Brain-eating bug claims three lives in a week

May 30, 2023

At least three people have lost their lives due to primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri, often dubbed as ‘brain-eating bug’, during the last one week in Karachi, Sindh health department officials said on Monday.

“Three people, including at woman, an adult male and a teenager, have lost their lives due to the brain infection caused by Naegleria fowleri in different areas of Karachi during the last one week,” an official associated with the disease surveillance cell of the provincial health department told The News.

The official said a 32-year-old woman, who was a resident of the Qayyumabad area, died due to primary amoebic meningoencephalitis on May 24, followed by death of a 45-year-old man in Surjani Town, who passed away on May 26. On May 28, a 19-year-old boy died in the Saddar area, the official said and added that Naegleria fowleri had claimed five lives in Karachi last year.

According to Karachi Health Director Abdul Hameed Jumani, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is a preventable disease as the amoeba, which causes this disease, can be killed by chlorination of water.

“Symptoms of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by the Naegleria fowleri are severe headache, nausea, vomiting, high-grade fever, loss of consciousness and fits. If a person contracts the infection caused by the Naegleria fowleri, it is 99 per cent fatal,” he said.

Urging the civic agencies, including the water and sewerage board, to chlorinate the water being supplied to the citizens, the health director said people should add chlorine tablets or chemicals containing chlorine to disinfect their overhead and underground water tanks. He said chlorine kills all the harmful bacteria and other microorganisms of water, including Naegleria fowleri.

According to research by Aga Khan University experts, Naegleria fowleri lives in the mud accumulated in the overhead and underground water tanks in Karachi and when water becomes warm and suitable for its growth in the summers, its becomes active and starts multiplying. The best option to avoid contracting Naegleria fowleri infection is to get the water tanks cleaned and chlorinate water, experts suggested.