Brain Eating Amoebas Have Killed At Least Ten People in Pakistan Since May

Posted on October 9, 2012

Naegleria fowleri Image

Deaths from Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba, are very rare. There tend to be just a few cases a year from people who have become infected with the amoeba after swimming in a warm lake or river. Reuters reports there have been at least ten deaths from the amoeba since May in Karachi, Pakistan. Most of the cases did not involve swimming. The amoeba is believed to have been transmitted to people through the nose through contaminated water.

Naegleria fowleri causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Symptoms of PAM begin about 5 days after infection. Death occurs about five days after symptoms begin. Symptoms include stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. There is no cure for the disease and the fatality rate is over 99% according to a CDC FAQ.

Reuters says Dr Musa Khan, head of the WHO's Disease Early Warning System in Pakistan, is warning people to avoid getting water too deep in their nostrils.

There have been deaths in the U.S. before from Naegleria fowleri in neti pot users. Do not use tap water with neti pots. Use only distilled, sterile or previously boiled water.

Photo: CDC