More cases of the rare infection caused by Naegleria, a waterborne parasite, have emerged, taking the total number of patients to nine this year.
Since July 3, three Naegleria cases were received at Liaquat National Hospital and one at Aga Khan University Hospital. All of them died within a few days.
Dr Naseem Salahuddin, the head of the Indus Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department, confirmed on Friday that her hospital had received two patients infected by Naegleria fowleri.
Sources at the Aga Khan University Hospital also revised their total number of patients dying of the rare disease from one to four this year.
Prof Dr Afia Zafar of the pathology and microbiology department at Aga Khan University Hospital said that the patient numbers could be much more as only a few hospitals have equipment to diagnose the parasite.
The parasite penetrates the human body through the nose when a person dives into an infected swimming pool or a freshwater pond or river. From there the amoeba travels directly to the brain, causing acute inflammation.
Dr Salahuddin said that the situation is not alarming but the doctors should look for the symptoms and identify the disease. She said that the only threat in Karachi lies with the swimming pools since there are no lakes or rivers in the city.
Some patients who came to the hospital, however, said they had not visited any pool or lake,” she said. “We do not have any proof, but we can assume that people could get the infection while washing the face or during ablution when water forced into nostrils.”
The Sindh health department tasked two officials with a survey of the water parks and swimming pools. Health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed told the press that four deaths by the parasite have been confirmed so far. The departments have been directed to add as much chlorine in the water as possible.
The KMC has two swimming pools at the KMC Sports Complex and Women’s Sports Complex.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.