October 9, 2012
Deadly Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills 10 People In Pakistan
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Ten people have died in Pakistan's most populated city due to a brain-eating amoeba transmitted by contaminated water.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official said Naegleria fowleri is transmitted when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. The brain-eating amoeba has a fatality rate of over 98 percent.
Dr Musa Khan, head of the WHO's disease early warning system in Pakistan, said that there have been 10 confirmed cases that have occurred in the southern port city of Karachi.
As the amoeba travels from the nasal membranes to the brain, symptoms such as a headache, stiff neck, fever and stomach pain can occur. Death usually occurs just five to seven days after infection.
Khan said authorities were planning a campaign to raise awareness among health workers and the public, and that most health centers had already been alerted.
"People should avoid getting water too deep into their nostrils and make sure their water supply is properly treated," he said in a statement. "Those with symptoms should seek help immediately."
People can commonly catch the disease by swimming in infected water, but Khan said those who died did not have a history of swimming.
The disease first surfaced in Karachi back in 2006, and this year's outbreak marks the first since then.
"There is no reason to panic and citizens should stay calm and take precautions," Saghir Ahmed, health minister of southern Sindh province, said in a statement. "It is a water-borne infection and we are thoroughly inquiring about its arrival and spread here."
Muslims must rinse the inside of their nose before praying, which could be one way the victims became infected. Ahmed said people should use boiled water for the purpose while the outbreak was taking place.
Misbahuddin Farid, who heads the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said they were increasing the chlorine concentration in reservoirs and supply stations as a precaution.
A health ministry statement referring to recent lab tests said 22 percent of 913 samples drawn from water supply sources were found to be non-chlorinated.
Officials suspect that there could be other cases that may have gone undetected, because hospitals may have not known about diagnosing the infection.