The brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, claimed this year’s first life in the city on the first day of Eidul Fitr, health officials confirmed on Friday.
“Fifty-five-year-old Sohail Tabassum died at a private hospital in Karachi due to infection caused by the microorganism,” said Dr Zafar Mehdi, focal person for the Sindh Health Department’s Naegleria fowleri Monitoring Cell.
This was the first death caused by the brain-eating amoeba in the metropolis this year, and the second death in Sindh after a 23-year old man from Tando Allah Yar was brought to a private hospital to Karachi where he died of the infection in April this year.
The official said Sohail was a resident of Gulberg, District Central and was admitted to Patel Hospital on June 23, where he died three days later on June 26, the first day of Eidul Fitr.
Dr Mehdi added that samples of the cerebrospinal fluid taken from the deceased’s body were sent to the Aga Khan University Hospital where it was confirmed that he had died due to the presence of the microorganism.
However, as per focal person’s claims, no trace of chlorine was found in the water being supplied to Gulberg area by the health department’s teams. The water samples collected from the mosque the deceased frequented was also found to not have been chlorinated, he added.
Dubbed the ‘brain-eating bug’, Naegleria fowleri claimed 14 lives each in Karachi in 2014 and 2015. However, there was a drastic reduction in N fowleri deaths in 2016 as only two people fell victim to the microorganism over the course of last year.
Health authorities ran several awareness campaigns to sensitise masses regarding the freshwater amoeba and its mode of transmission to the human body.
The amoeba, found in freshwater lakes, rivers and canals goes into hibernation in temperatures lower than 25 degrees Celsius, but start multiplying as soon as the water gets warm and reaches 35 degrees and above.
Due to an abundance of organic matter in water, the amoeba multiplies at a sharp rate.
“At a time when the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) is not chlorinating water being supplied to citizens, the best prevention is to add a little amount of common bleach in the underground or overhead water tanks of your house to kill the bacteria and other microorganisms including Naegleria fowleri,” Dr Mehdi suggested.
Public health experts at various health varsities in Karachi said the only option available for people in Karachi is to take precautionary measures such as using Sodium Hypochlorite or common bleach to disinfect water.
Avoiding swimming in canals, lakes and ponds of freshwater was also recommended as a precaution as the microorganism flourishes in the summer season.