Wednesday December 06, 2023

N fowleri claims year’s fifth life in city

August 18, 2017

Deadly microorganisms found in the unchlorinated water of Karachi have claimed the year’s fifth life, as health authorities confirmed the death of a young man from Dalmia’s Mujahid Colony due to Naegleria fowleri.

“Abdullah Ahmed, 20, was taken to the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) in a serious condition from another private hospital on Monday, but he died the next day,” Sindh Health Department’s focal person for the brain-eating bug, Dr Zafar Mehdi, told The News on Thursday. “Laboratory analysis of his cerebrospinal fluid showed that he was infected with N fowleri.”

Dr Mehdi said Ahmed was taken to a local physician last Friday because of a headache, but the next day he was taken to the Jamal Noor Hospital (JNH) after his condition worsened. On Monday the family took him to the AKUH on the recommendation of JNH doctors, but he succumbed to the deadly infection the next day, he added.

“He offered prayers five times a day. N fowleri apparently infected his nervous system during ablution. We are collecting samples from his mosque and the area where he lived to analyse if the water there was chlorinated.”

Earlier this month a woman in the city was reported to have died of the bug. According to Dr Mehdi, Amina Saleem, 48, from Karimabad had died on July 30 at a private hospital due to meningitis caused by N fowleri.

He said the woman had been suffering from extreme headaches, nausea and drowsiness for some days, adding that she was taken to the Patel Hospital in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on July 29 when her condition worsened. “Within 24 hours of her admission to the hospital, she succumbed to the deadly infection.”

Naegleria fowleri is a pathogen found in freshwater supplied from rivers and lakes to cities. If the water is supplied unchlorinated, the bug can cause a deadly infection in the central nervous system, resulting in death in almost all the cases because so far there is no cure for it.

A recent study, published in the Archives of Pharmacy Practices last year, has found that the highest number of N fowleri cases was reported in 2012 when 22 people in Pakistan died of the water-borne infection.

The researchers said that majority of the deaths due to the bug in the country between 2008 and 2015 occurred in the month of July. The mean temperature of the month was between 35°C and 39°C, while majority of the cases were reported in Karachi.

They said that no individual who contracted the disease was able to survive, adding that adults between the ages of 26 and 45 years were the most affected. All of the deaths occurred in the Muslim community, concluded the study. The study also pointed out that chlorination of the municipality water supply was below the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of 0.5 parts per million.