Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vietnam - First Vietnam man dies from brain-eating amoeba

The death of a 25-year-old man who developed high fever and headache after diving to catch clams in a pond in Phu Yen Province in July has been confirmed to be caused by a brain-eating amoeba. This is the first confirmed case in Vietnam.

P.V.T, a temporary resident in Ho Chi Minh City, returned to his native province of Phu Yen in mid-July. He and some friends later dived to catch clams in a fishpond. On July 29, he developed high fever and headache and he took some medicines but the condition got worse.

One day later, he was hospitalized at the Nhan Dan Gia Dinh Hospital in HCMC, where doctors consulted their counterparts from the Tropical Diseases Hospital and suspected that T had been inflected with a kind of amoeba.

T was later transferred to the Tropical Diseases Hospital for further treatment.

Despite intensive treatment, the patient could not recover since the ameba had moved from his nose to his brain and caused meningitis, said Dr Nguyen Hoan Phu, deputy head of the hospital’s infection department.

The patient later fell into a deep coma and experienced three cardiac arrests and the three respiratory arrests.

On July 31, the patient’s relatives asked the hospital for T’s discharge and T died on the way home in Phu Yen.

On August 21, a molecular biological test on the victim’s sample confirmed that he had been infected with a deadly amoeba species with scientific name Naegleria fowleri, which was discovered in 1965 and is sometimes called the brain-eating amoeba.

The amoeba is typically found in warm fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs, Phu said.

N. fowleri can invade and attack the human nervous system. Although this occurs rarely, such an infection nearly always results in the death of the victim. The fatality rate is estimated at 98 percent.

In the US, 121 people have been affected by the amoeba since 1937, when the first infection case was found, and only one of them survived. The dead victims had swam or bathed in ponds or lakes and then developed fever, headache and vomiting 1-2 weeks later, Dr Phu said.

He advised everybody should go to see a doctor if they develop the said symptoms after swimming or bathing in ponds, lakes or rivers.

The Health Ministry has asked the hospital to submit a report about the death, since this is the first case in Vietnam.

Swimming pools are safe

Dr Tran Phu Manh Sieu, said the amoeba is unlikely to be found in swimming pools that are well decontaminated like those in HCMC, since it cannot survive in water mixed with bactericide at a high level.

He also said the death from the amoeba is the first that has been confirmed in Vietnam so far. Whether any similar death has previously occurred remains unknown, since this amoeba can kill patients soon and if a test is not performed, doctors cannot identify the cause of the death.

Dr Nguyen Hung, director of Phu Yen Province Preventive Health Center, said. “I think an epidemiological investigation should be made on a certain number of people before concluding that this amoeba lives in lakes and ponds.

Such an investigation is necessary to drive away fear among the public, Hung said.


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