No ‘brain-eating amoeba’ cases in Malaysia yet but Health D-G urges vigilance

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 (Bernama) — Malaysia has yet to record any cases of “brain-eating amoeba” or Naegleria fowleri infection, but the public has been urged to stay vigilant and take appropriate measures during any activities in bodies of fresh water.

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Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (pic) said this also means no digging or tampering with any sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds or rivers where the amoeba can be found.

The public is also advised to avoid activities such as diving or swimming in water that may be contaminated by the amoeba, which can enter the body through the nasal cavity.

“Another step is to wash with treated water and soap after any activities in the water and immediately seek treatment when experiencing fever, headache, vomiting or neck stiffness, especially after such activities,” he said in a statement on Wednesday (Dec 28).

Naegleria fowleri is a thermophilic amoeba or protozoan single-celled organism that can be found all over the world, especially in freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, hot springs and in the ground.

It can cause severe brain infection, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is usually fatal.

It is nicknamed “brain-eating amoeba” as it damages the brain through infection of the spinal cord.

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On Tuesday (Dec 27), South Korea reported that a local man in his 50s died on Dec 21 after staying for four months in a South-East Asian country before returning home on Dec 10.

“The Health Ministry will continue to closely monitor the infection situation in the country and abroad from time to time, to ensure the health and well-being of the people. In addition, it is also committed to providing accurate and responsive information should there be any recent developments about this disease,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

Early-stage symptoms of PAM resemble those of meningitis caused by bacteria or other viruses and include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting.

More serious symptoms such as neck stiffness, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations and lapsing into a coma can also occur.

These symptoms typically appear around five days after infection and as early as one day or as late as 12 days.

“The patient’s condition can also worsen rapidly within five days and death can occur within one to 18 days from the onset of symptoms,” Dr Noor Hisham said.-BERNAMA


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