Teenager dies from ‘brain-eating amoeba’

The free-living amoeba, which is mostly found in stagnant freshwaters, enters the body through the nose.

July 07, 2023 05:32 pm | Updated 06:58 pm IST - ALAPPUZHA

A 15-year-old boy who was undergoing treatment for primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rare infection of the central nervous system caused by Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as ‘brain-eating amoeba’, died at Government Medical College Hospital (MCH), Alappuzha, on Thursday night.

The deceased was identified as a native of Panavally in Cherthala taluk. Officials said the patient was admitted to the hospital almost a week ago in critical condition. The teenager had also contracted leptospirosis, said an MCH official.

PAM infections are not spread from one person to another. Health Minister Veena George said that there was no cause for concern. Ms. George said the preliminary tests of samples collected from the victim had tested positive for PAM. The samples have been sent to Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research for detailed examination, she said.

According to the Minister, the Panavally native started experiencing fever on June 29 and sought treatment at Thuravoor taluk hospital two days later. On suspicion of encephalitis, the patient was referred to the MCH. The Minister said a team led by the district medical officer visited the hotspot and took preventive measures.

Prior to this, a total of five PAM cases had been reported in the State. The disease, usually fatal, was first detected in Alappuzha municipality in 2016. Following this, the infection was reported in Malappuram in 2019 and 2020, Kozhikode in 2020 and Thrissur in 2022.

The free-living amoeba, which is mostly found in stagnant freshwaters such as ponds, streams and lakes, enters the body through the nose. It destroys the brain tissue and causes swelling of the brain. Most Naegleria fowleri infections reported around the world have been linked to bathing and swimming in waterbodies.

The symptoms of the disease include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, altered mental status, seizures, hallucinations and so on. The Health department has advised people to avoid taking baths in contaminated water.

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