Naegleria deaths

Published: May 22, 2019

Pakistan is signatory to the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978. The International Primary Health Care Conference held in Alma Ata, then capital of Kazakhstan, came to the conclusion that most health problems in developing countries are caused by poor sanitation and malnutrition, so they are environmental. They should be tackled by improving the environment. But what we are witnessing in Sindh province is degradation of the environment instead of its improvement. Civic services in the province have collapsed. Garbage accumulates at roadsides; gutter overflows are a common sight; roads are in a dilapidated condition. This sorry state of affairs is resulting in various health problems. Malaria, drug-resistant typhoid, Naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba, and many other water-borne diseases are on the rise.

Three young men have died of Naegleria fowleri in Karachi since January this year. All these deaths were preventable only if chlorination of water was carried out in Karachi and other parts of the province. No one knows when the last chlorination of water was carried out. Neither does anyone ask why chlorination is not being done. Like in other matters affecting us we talk only of the effect. This is nothing but an admixture of apathy and ignorance. This also shows the lack of accountability. If it is so, it is a grievous fault; and grievously are people answering it.

Shoaib Ahmed, 34, a resident of Liaquatabad, died, of Naelgeria on May 19. Earlier, a 21-year-old student, resident of Orangi Town; and Rasheed Shah, 44, a resident of Kharadar, died from the disease. Experts say Naelgeria has a fatality rate of more than 98 per cent. They say Naegleria fowleri is caused when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. People should take precautions on their own to avoid being infected with the dangerous disease. Alternatively, people die from time to time and worms eat them.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2019.

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