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Melioidosis in Australia

24 Dec 2014

The Northern Territory (NT) Health Department has reported at least one death from melioidosis thus far during the 2014, wet season.

The bacterium that causes this infection (Burkholderia pseudomallei) lives in the soil and muddy water of the NT, the Kimberley region of Western Australia and northern Queensland. The bacteria comes to the surface following heavy rains.

To date, 6 cases of melioidosis have been reported in the 2014, wet season, however, further cases are predicted. On average the NT reports 35-45 cases each wet season; there were 66 cases in the 2013, wet season.

Advice for Travellers

People can become infected by walking in muddy water, handling muddy items, or breathing air-borne particles while using high-powered hoses. Travellers should take precautions against the disease by wearing waterproof shoes, gloves, and masks when gardening or cleaning up after floods.

Those most at risk include those with underlying conditions, such as diabetes, heavy alcohol intake, cancer, advanced age, kidney or lung disease and those being treated for cancer and on long-term steroid therapy medication.