The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) on Friday issued alerts and guidelines to provincial health departments for taking urgent measures to mitigate risk posed by the highly fatal Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), a disease of the central nervous system commonly referred to as “brain-eating amoeba”.
A letter issued to the provincial health departments directs officials for taking effective prevention and control measures on an immediate basis to avoid any health emergency.
NHSRC ministry, in June this year, issued the Seasonal Awareness and Alert Letter (SAAL) to the provinces when PAM was reported.
Health officials fear that urban slums and congested localities are at a greater risk because of the rusting and damaged water supply lines running alongside open sewerage lines.
They suggested that prevention of outbreak of the water-borne disease required a well-coordinated effort involving relevant health and non-health sectors including water and sanitation authorities.
Provinces have been directed to start educating people to adopt preventive measures such as avoiding swimming or bathing in stagnant water, dipping face or submerging head in water while bathing and taking water too deep into the nostrils while performing ablution.
Water and sanitation departments have also been directed to ensure optimal level of chlorination of water supply.
The authorities concerned have been directed to check water supply lines that were in close proximity to stagnant water, including water discharged by industrial plants and to take immediate measures to repair or replace such pipes incase of leakage.
According to ministry officials, it was a matter of serious concern that since May 2014, the disease had claimed six lives; therefore, it was important to focus on disease control and prevention to avert more deaths.
Brain-eating amoeba has a case fatality rate of 95 per cent and was first reported in Pakistan during 2012, causing 22 deaths in the southern parts of the county within a week.
“The responsibility of the federal government is to issue alerts and guidelines. Now it is up to the provincial governments how seriously they take the urgent measures,” said a senior official at the Ministry of NHSRC, who wished not to be named.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2014.
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