Amoebic meningoencephalitis claims another life in Kozhikode; fourth case in Kerala

While there wasn’t a full-blown outbreak, the recent PAM (primary amoebic meningoencephalitis) cases in the state have spread panic among the public.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jul 04, 2024 | 11:41 AM Updated Jul 04, 2024 | 11:41 AM

Brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri

A 13-year-old boy infected with Amoebic meningoencephalitis, and was under treatment at a private hospital in Kozhikode succumbed to it on the night of Wednesday, 3 July.

This is the third death this year due to the infection and the fourth reported case. The deceased has been identified as Mridul, a resident of Irumooliparamabu, near Farook College.

It is learnt that the boy swam Achamkulam lake and after six days developed some symptoms.

People get infected as the amoeba enters the body through the nose, usually while swimming. The amoeba travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue and causes swelling of the brain.

Previously speaking with South First, Ramanattukara Municipality’s Melevaram ward councillor Beena Prabha said “Samples of people who used the water body as well as those having symptoms were collected and sent for analysis.”

Amoebic meningoencephalitis: Another case reported in Kozhikode, third in Kerala

Previous cases

On 25 June it was confirmed that a 13-year-old girl, from Kannur, who succumbed at a private hospital in Kozhikode was infected with a rare variety of free-living amoeba.

The amoeba might have entered her body from a swimming pool that she accessed while on a tour from school on 28 January.

Before that, on 21 May, a five-year-old child who was undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, for amoebic meningoencephalitis also lost her life.

The child, a native of Kaliyattamukku in the Mooniyoor grama panchayath of the Malappuram district, is suspected to have been infected with the amoeba after she swam along with her relatives in the nearby Kadalundi River.

Health authorities on Friday, 28 June, reported that a 12-year-old boy from Irumooliparamabu, near Farook College, has been infected by the disease.

Amoebic meningoencephalitis is a rare brain infection that is caused by Naegleria fowleri.

Also Read: Brain-eating amoeba in Kerala: Health officials call it ‘very rare’

How the amoeba enters the body

Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm freshwater environments, such as lakes, hot springs, and poorly maintained swimming pools. The amoeba enters the body through the nose, and it then travels to the brain where it causes infection and inflammation.

“Another uncommon way of entry could be through a ritual, where people rinse their nostrils and nasal passages using water, including tap water,” said Dr Kumar.

Once inside the nasal passage, Naegleria fowleri travels through the olfactory nerve to the brain, where it causes severe damage to the tissues. The infection typically progresses rapidly, leading to inflammation of the brain and the meninges.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for PAM is extremely poor, with a high fatality rate. The infection progresses rapidly and, if left untreated, it can lead to death within a matter of days.

Immediate medical attention is crucial in increasing the chances of survival. Treatment options include aggressive use of antifungal and antimicrobial drugs, as well as measures to reduce brain swelling and inflammation.

Fear of the rare, but fatal disease

While there wasn’t a full-blown outbreak, the recent PAM (primary amoebic meningoencephalitis) cases in the state have spread panic among the public.

Discussions on the infection are mainly based on its rarity and severity, a lack of awareness, and concerns over water contamination.

It has been pointed out that PAM is a very uncommon infection, but rapidly progressive and often fatal. The sudden and serious nature of the disease can be frightening, especially for parents with young children, who are most susceptible.

Also, many people might not have been aware of PAM or how it is contracted. This lack of knowledge can lead to fear and a sense of vulnerability.

It is also being pointed out that the link between PAM and contaminated freshwater sources can create a worrying ripple effect. People might be hesitant to use ponds, canals, or even tap water if they’re unsure about its safety.

Health officials, however, are trying to dispel the public’s concerns.

They emphasised that these are just a few isolated cases, reiterating the extreme rarity of the disease.

The department states that though they understand the fear of the people as well as the fact that its severity is undeniable, people should realize that PAM is rare.

“While the occurrence of PAM is indeed alarming, it’s important to note that such cases are extremely rare. There is no need for widespread panic,” Dr Aravind R, Head of Infectious Diseases at the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram, commented.

Amoebic meningoencephalitis: The rare brain infection claims one more life in Kerala

(Edited by Sumavarsha Kandula, with inputs from Dileep V Kumar)

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