My sister was going to have her seventeenth birthday this November. She won’t anymore because she’s dead. She passed away on the 17th of July. Dropped dead, unexpectedly. She choked on her vomit. That was determined the cause of her death by doctors at AKUH. But I know today that she was killed by brain eating zombies.
It has been two weeks since the day she died. Today, her best friend emailed me some links about an amoebic disease known as ‘Naegleria’ that has claimed the lives of 8 reported cases in Karachi over the past few weeks.
‘Naegleria Fowleri’ is a single celled organism. It thrives in warm water and the perfect sites for its breeding would be untreated pools and spas, lakes, ponds, polluted stagnant water and sometimes soil including indoor dust. The N. Fowleri cannot survive in salt water, chlorinated pools or treated municipal water.
The N. Fowleri is called the ‘brain eating amoeba’ because it can travel up an individual’s nose to their brain and use it as a food source. A human can be easily infected during recreational activities such as swimming, skiing or diving.
What makes this infection so terrifying is the fact that it triggers very mild symptoms such as a fever, abdominal pain, headache and vomiting. These can easily be confused for other non fatal diseases. Sadly, the fatality rate for someone who has contracted Naegleria Fowleri is 98%. There have been only 7 reported cases of survival worldwide out of 400 reported cases.
Although the Naegleria Fowleri attacks the brain, victims do not die of brain disease. They die of meningitis which is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and the spinal cord. The symptoms start occurring within two weeks of infection and the victim dies between 2 to 5 days of the symptom onset.
Reportedly, eight people are dead in Karachi because of this amoeba. And yet, there has been no public service message to warn citizens of this disease. The only way to prevent it is to use treated water for drinking and washing up and to only swim in clean chlorinated pools. Although there is little chance of survival once you’ve been infested by the N. Fowleri, there is always hope. Which is why if someone suffers the symptoms related to it they should get it checked immediately.
The reason I wrote this piece is because I want people to be aware of this deadly disease that can take away our loved ones. I finally have an understandable reason as to why Amna died and that’s my only consolation. Sadly it’s not good enough.