Man dies from rare brain-eating amoeba in south China

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On September 3, a man surnamed He, from China's Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, died from the naegleria flowleri, also known as "brain-eating amoeba", after visiting a scenic spot in Shenzhen with his family and bathing in the water on August 14, SZNEWS reports.

An infection of the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, seen under a microscope.[Photo:]

An infection of the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, seen under a microscope.[Photo:]

Mr. He, visited a scenic spot in Shenzhen on August 14th with his wife and two children. Five days later, he suffered from headaches and began to cough. He attributed the symptoms to an ordinary cold and ignored them. He even took a tour to Zhejiang Province with his wife after he started feeling ill.

Starting on August 21, he began to feel much worse and was admitted to hospital in the Department of Internal Neurology. Soon after, his symptoms included pupil dilation. The doctors classified his condition as critical soon after. He died shortly thereafter on September 3.

According to the Department of Infectious Diseases at Shenzhen's No.3 People's Hospital, He was infected by a free-living amoeba, which normally feeds on bacteria but is also known to cause fulminant brain infection leading to death.

Amoebas live in freshwater and salt water, in soil, and as parasites in moist body parts of animals. Once the parasite invades the human body, it can cause naegleriasis, also known as Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM).

People infected will present with headache, fever and vomiting at the beginning, with the symptoms later progressing to include neck stiffness, hallucinations, seizures and then paralysis, coma and often death.

N. fowleri exposure occurs when people come into contact with warm freshwater through swimming, diving, water skiing, water toys, or other recreational activity. Public drinking water and well water also pose a risk.

Patients often die because doctors are unable to diagnose and treat the disease which can progress very quickly from the first symptoms, to severe swelling of the brain and death.

The disease can be prevented, as a very high percentage of cases are fatal. It is important to avoid inhaling water through the nose, also it is best to avoid diving, water skiing, swimming underwater, and jumping in warm, still waters, especially during the late summer months.

It is also very useful to wear a nose clip as the amoeba can only enter through the nose. It is also important to use distilled or sterile water to clean the nose and not regular tap water.

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