PUTRAJAYA: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed that no cases of Naegleria Fowleri infection have been reported in the country.
Director General of Health, Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah said, Naegleri Fowleri is a thermophilic amoeba or protozoan single-cell organism that can be found all over the world, especially in freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, hot springs and in the ground.
However, according to him, it is not found in salt water like in the ocean.
“Amoeba Naegleri Fowleri is also known as ‘brain-eating amoeba’ because it is capable of causing damage to the brain through infection of the spinal cord system.
“It is able to enter the human body through the nose during activities related to fresh water. However, until now there is no evidence that the infection can spread through water vapor or aerosol droplets,” he said in a statement today.
According to Noor Hisham, the Ministry of Health is referring to a news report published yesterday that reported the first case of Naegleria Fowleri infection in South Korea with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) confirming that a South Korean man in his 50s died on December 21 after being infected with the amoeba Naegleria Fowleri.
He explained that the man in question reportedly lived for four months in a Southeast Asian country before returning to South Korea on December 10.
Commenting further, Noor Hisham said, Naegleri Fowleri amoeba can cause severe brain infection which is Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) which in turn can be fatal.
“In the early stages, the symptoms of PAM resemble the symptoms of meningitis caused by bacteria or other viruses such as headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. More serious symptoms such as neck stiffness, confusion, lack of awareness of people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations and coma can also occur.
“Usually, these symptoms appear around five days after infection (incubation period) and can appear as early as one day or as late as 12 days after being infected,” he said.
He added, the patient’s condition can also worsen quickly, which is within five days and death can occur within one to 18 days from the onset of symptoms.
He explained that this disease is diagnosed through the detection of the nucleic acid of Naegleria Fowleri in the spinal fluid or brain tissue of an infected individual, while the treatment for this disease is the administration of a combination of drugs.
However, he said, treatment is very limited because the development of this disease occurs very quickly.
He also advised the public to take appropriate measures when doing activities in fresh water such as avoiding digging or tampering with any sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds or rivers as the amoeba habitat is there.
He also said that activities such as diving, jumping into water where water that may be contaminated by amoeba can enter the nasal cavity directly should also be avoided in addition to washing the body with treated water and soap after doing activities in the water.
“Immediately seek treatment if you experience fever, headache, vomiting or sudden neck stiffness, especially after doing activities in the water.
“MoH will continue to closely monitor the situation of Naegleria Fowleri infection in the country and abroad from time to time to ensure the health and well-being of the people as well as being committed to providing accurate and responsive information should there be the latest developments about the disease,” he said. – MESSENGER
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