Outbreaks of bird flu, dengue fever and now the ‘brain-eating’ Naegleria fowleri have all made people very concerned about their health, but this brain infection, caused by the amoeba Naegleria entering through the nose, can be avoided.
This was the consensus of experts who spoke at a public health awareness programme organised by Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) on Thursday.
They advised the people to keep their head out of the water while swimming and prevent water going up the nose during showering and bathing.
Moreover, experts recommended the use of only boiled or chlorinated water when cleaning the nose for religious practices or other reasons.
“A person cannot get an infection from drinking or bathing in contaminated water. Nor does the infection spread through person-to-person contact.”
Speaking to the audience, Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood, consultant infectious diseases, said Naegleria causes a very rare form of brain infection, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) that leads to the destruction of brain tissue and brain swelling.
Initial symptoms of PAM include headache, fever, anorexia, vomiting and later progress to a stiff neck, altered mental status, seizures and coma.
“Unfortunately, PAM is a fatal disease for which no effective treatment exists anywhere in the world. While amoeba-killing medicines are always given to patients, these usually do not work and death occurs almost 99 percent of the time. Only a small number of Naegleria cases have been reported worldwide, with a dramatic increase in Karachi recently,” he said.