The rising cases of amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare brain infection, have sparked scare across Kerala. Since May, three children have died, and a fourth case has been reported.

What is PAM?

Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that thrives in warm freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. This "brain-eating amoeba" destroys brain tissue.

Though rare, these infections are fatal, with a 97% mortality rate. However, they do not spread from person to person. Experts believe that rising temperatures are creating favourable conditions for the amoeba to thrive.

How does it affect humans?

The infection primarily occurs when people swim in lakes, ponds, or rivers during the summer. The amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue and causes swelling.

Symptoms of PAM

Initial symptoms include headache, nausea, and vomiting. The disease can progress rapidly, with most people dying within 1 to 18 days of infection.

Diagnosis and treatment

The infection can be diagnosed through PCR tests of the cerebrospinal fluid. Currently, there are no standard treatment methods available, so doctors are adhering to CDC guidelines.

In a recent case reported in Kozhikode, a 14-year-old boy is being treated with a cocktail of five medicines including the German-made drug miltefosine.

Steps to reduce the risk of infection

Holding the nose or wearing a nose clip while jumping or diving into fresh water are some recommended precautions. The head should be kept above water when entering warm water.