South Korea Reports the First Death Related to the ‘Brain-eating Amoeba’

It is often called the “brain-eating amoeba” because it can infect the brain when amoeba-containing water goes up the nose.

The Korea Times reports that a man in his 50s died from the virus Naegleria fowleri, also known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” after returning from Thailand. This is the first instance of a fatal illness in South Korea.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency was cited in a report in the News Outlet about a Korean national who passed away after traveling to Thailand. After staying there for a total of four months, on December 10 of last month, the man returned to Korea.

On the evening of his arrival, the patient started exhibiting meningitis symptoms, including headaches, fever, vomiting, slurred speech, and neck stiffness; the next day, he was taken to an emergency room.

He was admitted to the hospital the next day, and on December 21, he passed suddenly.

According to the Korean health service, genetic testing on three distinct illnesses that are the source of Naegleria fowleri was used to identify the reason for his death. Testing revealed that a gene in the man’s body matched one found in a meningitis patient who had been reported overseas 99.6% of the time.

This is the first instance of the disease becoming infected in South Korea. The KDCA has noted that swimming in polluted water and nasal rinsing with contaminated water are the two leading causes of illness, even though it has not yet determined the exact transmission mode.

South Korea first 'brain-eating amoeba' death
South Korea’s first ‘brain-eating amoeba’ death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health organization, Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism living in soil and warm freshwaters, such as lakes, rivers, and hot water springs of the United States.

Because it can infect the brain when amoebic water enters the nose, it is frequently referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba.” Only three Americans each year infect themselves, yet these illnesses are typically fatal.

The first study describing this infection was released in Australia in 1965. Three fatal illnesses from 1965 and one from 1961 were found in the study.

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The First Naegleria fowleri death in S. Korea Related to The ‘brain-eating amoeba’

South Korean officials announced the first death nationwide caused by a “brain-eating amoeba” on Monday. According to the Yonhap news agency, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has confirmed that the illness claimed the life of a 50-year-old Korean man who had just returned from Thailand.

What you should know about the “brain-eating amoeba” is as follows:

What is it?

The small, one-celled amoeba, known scientifically as “Naegleria fowleri,” inhabits warm freshwater environments such as hot springs, lakes, and rivers.

How does it spread among humans?

Through contaminated water, Naegleria fowleri can enter the body. People may experience this if they dive, swim, or submerge their heads in water contaminated by this amoeba.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the amoeba travels up your nose before entering the brain cavity, where it progressively destroys brain tissue and causes Primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a rare but usually fatal condition (PAM).

Even if people avoid swimming in bodies above water, they still risk contracting an illness if they use water contaminated with Naegleria fowleri to wash their noses and clear their sinuses.

Rarely have people contracted illnesses from chlorine-free pool water, water parks, etc.

Where is this brain-eating amoeba found geographically?

The CDC warned that it might be present in any freshwater body in the US during the warmer months of July, August, and September. It was initially identified in the US in the year 1937. Neither saltwater nor brackish water contains it.

The organism can occasionally endure warmer temperatures and grows best in high temperatures up to 115°F (46°C). It primarily thrives in warm water and heat.

How typical are these amoeba infections?

The brain-eating amoeba case reported on Monday (December 26) is the first to occur in South Korea. Between 2012 and 2021, there were on average 0 to 5 new cases diagnosed annually in the US. Three hundred eighty-one instances, mainly from the US, India, and Thailand, have been reported as of 2018.

Who is most at risk from the illness?

Primarily young guys, 14 years old or younger. However, according to the CDC, this may be mainly because boys of this age are more likely to engage in behaviors that make people susceptible to the organism and the associated sickness. Is it spreadable?

Not at all, no. The disease cannot spread from one afflicted person to another.

What are the symptoms of brain infection?

Fever, nausea, and vomiting are typical symptoms that often appear five days or so following an infection. Other signs of disease that appear later include a stiff neck, confusion, a loss of awareness of others and the environment, seizures, hallucinations, and coma. Ultimately, it causes death by destroying brain tissue, resulting in cerebral enlargement.

The illness advances quickly, and in most cases, death occurs one to five days after infection. The infection becomes deadly in roughly 97% of instances.

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What are the treatment options for Naegleria fowleri?

There isn’t a universal cure for the amoeba yet. The rarity of the infection primarily causes this. A few medications were shown to be helpful in the treatment, nevertheless.

Although few cases of this lethal amoeba are reported to date, as the earth warms due to climate change and global warming, infections may become more widespread as this amoeba thrives in heat.

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