Deadly brain-eating amoeba resurfaces in Pakistani city

By Katharine Houreld

ISLAMABAD Oct 9 (Reuters) - A brain-eating amoeba has killedat least 10 people in Pakistan's most populous city since May, aWorld Health Organization official said on Tuesday.

Naegleria fowleri has a fatality rate of more than 98percent. It is transmitted when contaminated water enters thebody through the nose and cannot be passed person-to-person.

The 10 confirmed cases have all occurred in the southernport city of Karachi, said Dr Musa Khan, head of the WHO'sDisease Early Warning System in Pakistan.

It is unclear if all cases have been reported as residentsmay not be familiar with the disease and Pakistan's hospitalsare severely overstretched.

The amoeba travels from the nasal membranes to the brain.Symptoms are initially very mild, including a headache, stiffneck, fever and stomach pain. Death usually occurs five to sevendays after infection.

Authorities are planning a campaign to raise awareness amonghealth workers and the public, Khan said. Most health centreshad already been alerted, he said.

"People should avoid getting water too deep into theirnostrils and make sure their water supply is properly treated,"he said. "Those with symptoms should seek help immediately."

Victims commonly catch it through swimming in infectedwater, but Khan said most of those who died did not have ahistory of swimming. Authorities were testing water from variousparts of the city, he said.

The disease first surfaced in Karachi, a city of 18 millionpeople, in 2006. This year's outbreak has been the first sincethen and the most recent deaths occurred last week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on its web sitethat in the 10 years from 2002 to 2011, 32 infections werereported in the United States.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

((Katharine.Houreld@thomsonreuters.com)(+ 92 307 8888153)(Reuters Messaging:katharine.houreld.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))