KARACHI: Summer vacations for schools and colleges have started and people have begun to make picnic plans. However, experts recommend avoiding farmhouses this summer as their pools may be contaminated with a deadly parasitic amoeba.
Usually a popular choice during summers as they provide a viable substitute to the beach, health experts have advised against a dip in farmhouse water since most of them are not chlorinated according to international standards.
"Swimming in ponds or in freshwater or private pools should be avoided at all costs since they are often not chlorinated," said a University of Karachi microbiologist, Dr Aqeel Ahmed. "Naegleria Fowleri is a parasitic amoeba that contaminates unchlorinated waters during the summers. Due to leakages in water supply lines, there is a high chance of the existence of this amoeba at the outskirts of the city, where these farmhouses are usually located."
Ahmed explained that even though water provided by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) is chlorinated at source, their water supply lines have developed several leakages, which may cause the level of chlorine to decrease towards the outskirts of the city and may lead to an outbreak of Naegleria Fowleri.
Keeping a look out
The KWSB has established a monitoring cell at the water board's chemical oxygen demand plant that ensures that the internationally recommended level of chlorine is mixed into the water supply. "We have directed the heads of all districts to collect water samples from their areas so that we can determine whether the level of chlorine has fallen below the international standard anywhere in the city," said KWSB managing director, Qutubuddin Sheikh. "We are also trying to monitor the water that is being supplied to the swimming pools at farmhouses."
Sheikh also asked people to take certain precautions on their own. "People should sterilise or boil water before performing wuzu,"he suggested.
What is Naegleria Fowleri?
Naegleria Fowleri is a parasite, not a bacteria or a virus, and multiplies in the brain and causes inflammation, severe headaches, rigidity in neck muscles and mental confusion. The parasitic amoeba also damages brain tissues, which may result in coma and or even death within 72 hours. In May of last year, the amoeba claimed two lives in the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2014.
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