A “brain-eating amoeba” is responsible for killing 10 people in Pakistan’s largest city, according to a Pakistani official with the World Health Organization (WHO).
The amoeba is a waterborne parasite that lives in warm, unclean water, reports NBC News. It can infect the human nervous system, although this is a rare occurrence.
The Naegleria fowleri cases have been reported in Karachi between May and September of this year, according to Musa Khan, who is in charge of WHO’s Disease Early Warning System in the country.
Khan added that municipal authorities have since launched a campaign in the Karachi area that ensures residents have a clean water supply. Health officials have also been carrying out a public awareness campaign aimed at educating and guiding people and doctors in the area about the disease. Khan stressed:
“There is no need to panic over these deaths. There is a remote chance for the spread of this deadly disease.”
CBS News notes that the brain-affecting form of the disease is not usually caused by drinking water but instead by swimming in dirty water or cleaning the nostrils with the contaminated water.
The parasite travels from the nostrils into the brain where it proceeds to destroy tissue. Symptoms of the deadly disease include fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, and headaches.
US health officials have two reported cases of the brain-eating amoeba this summer including a man in Indiana who died after teaching his daughter to swim. The other case was of a boy in South Carolina who died from the brain infection in July.
Thirty-two brain-eating amoeba cases have been reported in the US between 2002 and 2011. Out of 123 cases in the US between 1962 and 2011, only one person has survived.