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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Naegleria outbreak in Karachi: Urgent action needed to protect lives

Naegleria outbreak claims lives in Karachi. Urgent action needed to protect against this deadly brain-eating amoeba.

In a recent report two more lives were claimed by the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria, in Karachi. The victims—a woman from Qayyumabad and a man from Surjani Town—succumbed to the deadly virus, highlighting the urgent need for stronger preventive measures. The Sindh Health Department has expressed concerns over the lack of chlorination in many parts of the city, emphasising the importance of this key method in eliminating the germ and preventing the spread of the disease.

Devastating Effects of Naegleria

Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled amoeba found in warm freshwater environments such as lakes, hot springs, and poorly maintained swimming pools. When individuals come into contact with contaminated water through activities like swimming or performing wudu (ritual washing) in infected water, the amoeba can enter the nasal cavity and travel to the brain, leading to a highly fatal infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The mortality rate of this condition is extremely high, making early detection and preventive measures crucial.

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Recent Victims and Concerns

The recent victims of Naegleria in Karachi serve as a sombre reminder of the ongoing threat posed by this amoeba. The woman from Qayyumabad contracted the infection after performing wudu at a private hospital in Gulshan, while the man from Surjani Town fell victim to the virus on May 26. Their tragic deaths highlight the need for immediate action by the relevant authorities to curb the spread of Naegleria and protect the population.

Inadequate Chlorination and the Role of Water Treatment

Chlorination is the primary method of disinfection that effectively kills Naegleria and prevents its proliferation. Unfortunately, poor chlorination practices in many parts of Karachi have allowed the amoeba to thrive in water supplies. The lack of proper chlorination has become a significant concern, as the germ finds little resistance and can spread easily. Water treatment plants must prioritise thorough chlorination processes to ensure the elimination of Naegleria from water sources, thereby safeguarding public health.

Public Awareness and Prevention Strategies

Raising public awareness is paramount in combating Naegleria. Educating individuals about the risks associated with contaminated water and the importance of preventive measures is crucial. Boiling water before using it to clean the nasal cavity can help reduce the risk of infection. Additionally, individuals should avoid swimming or performing wudu in potentially contaminated water bodies, especially during the summer months when Naegleria is more prevalent.

Collaborative Efforts and Government Intervention

Addressing the Naegleria outbreak requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving various stakeholders. The government, in collaboration with health departments and water treatment authorities, should implement stringent measures to ensure adequate chlorination in all water sources. Regular monitoring and testing should be conducted to identify and address areas with insufficient disinfection protocols. Additionally, public health campaigns should be launched to disseminate information about the disease and preventive strategies, emphasising the role of the community in curbing the spread of Naegleria.

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The recent fatalities caused by Naegleria in Karachi highlight the urgency of implementing robust preventive measures. To protect public health, it is imperative for authorities to prioritise chlorination in water treatment plants, conduct regular monitoring and testing, and raise awareness among the population about the risks associated with Naegleria. By adopting a collaborative approach and empowering individuals with knowledge, we can strive to prevent further loss of life and mitigate the impact of this deadly brain-eating amoeba.