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Pakistan reports second Naegleria fatality of 2014

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For the second time in two weeks and the second time this year, Pakistani health officials are reporting a "brain-eating amoeba" death in a Karachi-area resident.

Pakistani news source, The News reports Friday that a 22-year-old man from the Gulistan-e-Jauhar neighborhood in Karachi, Sindh died at the Aga Khan University Hospital after an attempt at treating the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. It is unclear how the victim contracted the amoeba.

Two weeks ago, a 39-year-old man from the same neighborhood succumbed to the lethal brain parasite. This first victim had no history of swimming and health officials suspected the victim had been afflicted with the deadly amoeba while performing ablution, or nasal rinsing.

The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) reactivated its Naegleria fowleri monitoring cell to test water samples in May in response to the first case. In addition, officials have been collecting samples from the swimming pools of various clubs and hotels to check chlorine levels.

Karachi was the epicenter of a Naegleria fowleri outbreak that killed 10 people in the summer of 2012.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria fowleri is a free-living amoeba that can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

People get infected when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. The Naegleria fowleri ameba then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue.

In Pakistan, the amoeba has been reported contracted by performing ablution. The practice of ablution is included in Yogic, Ayurvedic, and Islamic traditions. Within the Islamic faith, ritual nasal rinsing is included in a cleansing process called “wudu” or “ablution.” It is usually performed several times a day in preparation for prayer, according to the CDC. The deadly parasite has also be contracted via the use of neti pots.

You cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water, the CDC notes.

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