7th case of Naegleria fowleri reported in Karachi – What is it?

Experts shared that the Naegleria fowleri infection progresses rapidly and frequently leads to coma and death in one to 18 days.

Recently, a 38-year-old resident of North Karachi was admitted to Ziauddin Hospital’s intensive care unit. According to details, the man named Zeeshan has been infected with Naegleria fowleri.

Naegleria fowleri is a deadly organism often referred to as ‘brain-eating amoeba’. It’s found in freshwater sources, including poorly chlorinated piped water. The organism enters the nasal cavity when water contaminated with amebae is aspirated. Subsequently, it invades the central nervous system and causes a fatal infection that clinically resembles acute bacterial meningitis.

Reports state that this is the seventh case of Naegleria fowleri in the city this year. Six people, including a neurosurgeon and an eight-year-old child, have already lost their lives to the same infection called Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri.

Speaking about Zeeshan’s treatment, sources stated:

The patient has earlier been to a couple of private hospitals but could not be treated. One healthcare facility had insufficient staff, while the other denied him admission because there was no vacant hospital bed.

According to reports, the patient initially showcased symptoms of severe headache, high-grade fever, nausea, vomiting and mental confusion/disorientation, seizure, and cranial nerve abnormalities. Zeeshan’s symptoms had developed within three to four days of coming in contact with Naegleria.

Experts shared that the Naegleria fowleri infection progresses rapidly and frequently leads to coma and death in one to 18 days (on an average 5 days) after symptom onset.

A report prepared by the Regional Disease Surveillance and Response Unit stated that the risk factor in Zeeshan’s case was piped water. The report reads:

There is an urgent need to assess the chlorination process and level of chlorine at all major water reservoirs supplying water to the city as per the WHO recommendation. Cleanliness must be maintained at all reservoirs, overhead tanks/other reservoirs of households, pumping stations, and hydrants regularly.

The report further urges authorities to inspect pipelines to check leakages and avoid contamination of water with sewage, engagement, and training of local healthcare workers. The suggestions further entail that a public awareness drive should be launched so that the public can identify Naegleria cases quickly.

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