Deadly 'brain-eating' amoeba cases reported in Kerala - What you need to know

The infection can cause symptoms like severe fever, headaches vomiting and neck pain as well as these the patient can go into altered sensorium and may have seizures.
Representative Image.
Representative Image.(Photo | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Keralites, especially youngsters, have a love for fishing and to take a fun dip in small canals and ponds enjoying their monsoon holidays. However they are not aware of the danger that awaits them in the water. Several cases of Amoebic encephalitis has been reported in Kerala with the latest being a 12- year-old boy from Kozhikode.

Dakshina, a 13-year-old girl from Kannur, died about a week ago while in May, a five-year-old also succumbed to the infection. With cases being reported in Malappuram and Alappuzha districts all districts are on high alert.

What is Amoebic encephalitis?

After getting infected by the infection Amoebic encephalitis, caused by the free-living Naegleria fowleri amoeba and Vermamoeba vermiformis . The method of infection of the amoeba is through water especially ponds and in very few reported cases canals, entering through the nasal cavity while swimming, the amoeba infects the brains thus being called “brain-eating amoeba”.

The infection can cause symptoms like severe fever, headaches vomiting and neck pain as well as these the patient can go into altered sensorium and may have seizures. Contrary to its name the amoeba dosent cause decay of the brain however In the Vermamoeba vermiformis the progression of the symptoms is slower taking months, then compared to the others where symptoms appear and drastically change in a matter of days.

“For detecting a brain related the cerebral spinal fluid is collected and is cultured in a medium. However the amoeba is neither a virus nor a bacteria and the medium only allows for detection of these organisms so if the doctor doesn’t suspect the chances of Amoebic encephalitis the disease may go undetected “ said Dr Netto George, infectious disease consultant, Kottayam Medical College. He also pointed out that mortality rate is around 95%-100%, as the disease lacks any proper treatment method or drug of choice to treat the disease rather only a combination of drugs are used with occasionally the patient’s condition improves.

Preventive method

The only preventive method is the use of chlorine to properly maintain pools. This amoeba is rarely found in flowing water like in waterfalls and in salty water in the sea or oceans. However for the time being it recommended to avoid swimming in ponds and canals.

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