Vietnam records first case of rare brain inflammation

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A man who died recently from a disease caused by a brain-eating amoeba was the first-ever case in Vietnam, the Health Ministry reported Friday, stressing the rarity of the problem.

A report on news website VnExpress Saturday quoted the ministry's Department of Preventive Health as saying that the primary amoebic meningoencephalitis that killed the man was caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.

The disease is very rare, but has a very high death rate, according to the department.

The US, for example, recorded "just" 123 cases in the 49 years between 1962 and 2011, making that country's annual average rate between zero and eight cases, it said.

However, the department warned people not to swim in lakes and ponds with "high risks," because the amoeba lives in fresh water in tropical and subtropical areas. It can penetrate the human nasal mucous membrane, then enter the brain before causing the disease.

It advised people to keep their head above water and use nose clips when swimming, adding that antiseptic measures for the nose were also needed after swimming.

On Wednesday the Ho Chi Minh City-based Hospital of Tropical Diseases announced that tests had concluded that a 25-year-old male patient who was hospitalized on July 30 and died three days later was infected with Naegleria fowleri.

According to his family, the man, who hailed from the central province of Phu Yen, and his friends swam in a lake to catch oysters in a rural village near his hometown in mid-July.

He later developed a fever and headache and was admitted Gia Dinh People's Hospital, also in HCMC. He was diagnosed with meningitis there before being transferred to the Hospital of Tropical Diseases.

The man fell into coma, had high fever and respiratory failure before dying.

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