6 Jul 2024

Brain-eating amoeba infection cases increase, fourth case documented in Kerala; what precautions should you take?

There has been another reported case of infection caused by brain-eating amoeba in Kerala. The condition, known as Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, is linked to amoebas present in contaminated water sources. 

According to sources in a hospital, a 14-year-old boy from Payyoli in Kozhikode district of North Kerala is currently undergoing treatment for this infection. This marks the fourth reported case of amoeba infection in the state since May, with all cases involving children. Unfortunately, in the previous instances, all three affected children have passed away.

A doctor treating the teenager said that he was admitted to the hospital on July 1 and his condition is improving. The doctor said on Saturday that the infection was identified quickly in the teenager and other treatments were given, including medicines ordered from abroad. Earlier, a 14-year-old boy died of the same infection on Wednesday night. A five-year-old girl from Malappuram and a 13-year-old girl from Kannur died of the brain infection on May 21 and June 25 respectively.

Amid rising infection cases, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held a meeting on Friday in which several suggestions were made to prevent the infection, including not bathing in dirty water bodies. The meeting also suggested that chlorine should be added to swimming pools and children should be careful while entering them as they are most affected by the disease. The Chief Minister also said that all people should take care to keep water bodies clean.

How dangerous is it & what precautions should be taken?

Medical experts explain that amoebic meningoencephalitis occurs when Naegleria Fowleri enters the body through the nose, typically from contaminated water. Once inside, the amoeba travels along the olfactory nerve to the brain, causing severe inflammation and rapidly progressing symptoms such as severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. Despite treatment efforts involving antifungal and antimicrobial medications, the mortality rate remains high.

Naegleria Fowleri is commonly found in warm freshwater environments like lakes, rivers, and hot springs, especially during warmer summer months when water temperatures rise. It prefers stagnant or slow-moving water and can survive in poorly chlorinated swimming pools, untreated hot tubs, and even soil.

In Kerala, the environmental conditions are conducive to the growth and survival of Naegleria Fowleri. The state's tropical climate, characterized by high temperatures and humidity, provides an ideal habitat for the amoeba. During the monsoon season, heavy rainfall raises water levels in lakes, rivers, and ponds, creating stagnant or slow-moving water where the amoeba prospers. Traditional practices like bathing and washing in natural water sources are common in Kerala, heightening the risk of exposure to contaminated water.

Health authorities are stressing the importance of implementing preventive measures. Adequate chlorination of pools, refraining from swimming in unclean water sources, and wearing nose clips during swimming can aid in lowering the infection risk. The Chief Minister emphasized the importance of maintaining cleanliness in waterbodies. Heightened awareness and proactive steps are crucial in preventing additional instances of this severe infection.

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