The recent death of a boy in Alappuzha due to amoebic encephalitis is a pointer to the gravity of the problems generated by polluted waterbodies across the State.
The incident was the first of its kind in Kerala, said Jamuna Varghese, Deputy District Medical Officer, Alappuzha.
The death, due to attack on the brain of the victim by the disease-causing organism, was classified in the ‘rarest of the rare’ category.
But what is scary is that the circumstances that led to the infection still prevails.
World over, only 300 deaths had occurred, Dr. Varghese told The Hindu . Yet, the medical community should be vigilant against recurrence of the disease that had fever as its symptom, she said.
When water enters the nasal cavity during swimming and bathing, the amoeba migrates to the brain through the nasal tissues and consumes cells there, causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to medical experts.
The victim had swum in a contaminated canal water at Pallathuruthy here. The district medical authorities cautioned people against using the water in the canal.
Prevention of the natural flushing system in the paddy fields was a major reason behind the contamination of waterbodies, said Ashish Mathew George, a programme officer at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a voluntary organisation that had conducted several studies on Vembanad ecosystem.
Warm polluted water in canals or ponds is congenial to the growth of the disease-causing organism, and with global warming increasing the temperature of water in canals, the bacteria could thrive there.
Adhering to the crop calendar so as to let in water through the bunds would be the ideal solution to the problem, according to Mr. George.
In the case of Pallathuruthy and such canals, the upstream pollutants brought in by rivers are let out by opening of the Thanneermukkom bund. If it does not happen on time, acidification becomes high in the water and planktons get destroyed, leaving the fish without food.
Earlier, the opening of the bund at scheduled periods facilitated entry of salty water that brought migratory fish along with it, while cleansing the waterbodies. A prolonged harvest season was upsetting the schedules thus resulting in indirect damage to the ecosystem, he said.
The case of amoebic encephalitis is just one of the resultant tragedies arising out of such insensitivities to ecological matters.
Death of a boy due to amoebic encephalitis is a pointer
Absence of flushing system in waterbodies a major cause