A brain-eating amoeba in Kerala killed a 14-year-old boy in Kozhikode, Kerala. According to news agency PTI, the child, named Mardol, swam in a contaminated pond and then contracted Naegleria folarii, which is spread by a free-living amoeba. Since the May 21 infection-related death of a 5-year-old girl from Malappuram, Kerala has reported three such deaths. Soon after, a 13-year-old girl from Kannur also contracted the infection and died on June 25. Keep reading as we discuss what this mind-eating creature is. We also list its symptoms, treatment and prevention tips.

What is this brain-eating amoeba?

Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” is a single-celled organism that thrives in warm freshwater environments such as lakes and rivers. It can affect humans when contaminated water enters the body through the nose, usually during activities such as swimming or diving.

Once inside the nasal passages, the amoeba can travel to the brain, causing a rare but serious infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). PAM is almost always fatal, causing brain tissue destruction and severe inflammation.

Also read: Brain-eating amoeba claims third victim in Kerala: How to prevent infection

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, which rapidly progress to more severe neurological problems such as seizures, hallucinations and coma. Because of its rapid growth and high mortality rate, exposure to Naegleria folarii poses a significant health risk.

What are some ways to prevent it?

Prevention of Naegleria foliari infection involves minimizing exposure to warm freshwater sources where the amoeba may be present.

Here are some important prevention tips:

  1. Avoid swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and hot springs, especially in summer when temperatures are high.
  2. If you swim in such waters, use nose clips to prevent water from entering your nose.
  3. For activities such as nasal irrigation (eg, using a neti pot), make sure the water is sterile, distilled, boiled and cooled, or filtered with a filter that removes amoeba.
  4. Be careful with water sports that involve submerging your head in warm freshwater, such as water skiing and wakeboarding.
  5. If using wading pools or other shallow water play areas, fill them with safe water and make sure they are cleaned regularly.

By taking these precautions, you can significantly reduce your risk of Naegleria foliari infection.

Also read: Kerala boy dies of rare brain-eating amoeba after drowning in pond

What are the treatment options?

As yet, PAM has no viable treatment. Doctors are using different types of medicines to treat this disease.

You are advised to follow these precautions and contact a healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms described above.

Disclaimer: This content, including advice, provides general information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your doctor for more information. NDTV does not accept responsibility for this information.

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