Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a fatal brain-eating amoeba is spreading very rapidly in the US. According to experts this could be more deadly than the existing coronavirus.
A recent report by CDC showed that a total 120 cases of brain-eating amoeba have been reported till date. Of these cases, about 74 cases occurred in the South, 5 in the West, 6 case in the Midwest. The amoeba is spreading rapidly to other parts of the USA due to climate change. Experts are worried that the amoeba can spread in other countries across the globe because it can survive in warm temperatures up to 113°F.
This fatal brain-eating amoeba, named Naegleria fowleri, is commonly found in river, lakes and soil. It infects people when the contaminated water enters the body through the nose. The amoeba then travels to the brain and cause damage to the brain tissue. It can cause a fatal infection in brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
PAM can cause severe swelling and inflammation in the brain. PAM infection can cause symptoms like headache, vomiting, high fever, seizures, nausea, hallucinations, lack of attention and loss of balance. In severe cases, it can also cause organ damage, muscle cramps, loss of speech and unconscious. If not treated, the people can die within 4 to 7 days of symptom onset.
Generally Naegleria infection occurs when people go swimming or diving in freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. CDC suggested that one couldn’t be infected by drinking water contaminated with Naegleria.
To prevent the spread of infection, experts are warning people to avoid swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers and in inadequately chlorinated swimming pool. People are also advised to not use tap water to cleanse their noses. People living in high-risk areas are advised to wear nose clips and avoid nasal contact.
The diagnosis of the PAM infection is initially very difficult because its symptoms are similar to bacterial meningitis and the disease spreads rapidly in the body.
People should immediately consult a doctor, if they develop any PAM symptoms. Doctor can prescribe anti-amoeba treatment drugs depending on the infection severity. But in extreme cases, the drugs may become ineffective.
PAM is very rare disease but always fatal. According to a report only 4 out of 148 people have survived infection from 1962 to 2019 in the US.