Rain is here. Don’t get Melioidosis

Department of Health

Residents and visitors to the Top End need to be aware about the increased risk of getting the potentially deadly disease, Melioidosis, following recent wet weather.

Dr Vicki Krause Director of the Northern Territory (NT) Centre for Disease Control said increased rainfall expected this year due to an active La Niña event meant there would be a greater risk of Melioidosis, a disease cause by the bacteria in soil.

Territorians are urged to take precautions to avoid Melioidosis this wet season, with about 50 cases reported in the Top End between October and May each year.

“Melioidosis can lead to severe pneumonia and blood poisoning with 10-15 per cent of infections in past years leading to death, even with the best medical care,” Dr Krause said.

“Cuts and sores are the perfect entry point for the bacteria to invade the body, but it can also be inhaled if it gets stirred up by wind.”

Melioidosis is a disease caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is found in tropical soil. People come in contact with this bacteria during the wet season when heavy rains bring the bacteria to the ground’s surface. It can enter the body when areas of broken skin are exposed to contaminated mud or surface water.

Melioidosis can cause a variety of symptoms and signs including pneumonia, unexplained fevers, cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, urinary symptoms, and occasionally problems such as headache and confusion. Skin sores that do not heal should be investigated for Melioidosis.

During the wet season, Top End residents should take the following precautions:

  • Wear covered waterproof footwear when outdoors
  • Wear gloves while working in the garden/soil-based environment
  • Cover sores and abrasions with waterproof dressings
  • Wear face masks while using high pressure hoses around soil
  • Stay indoors during heavy wind and rain.
  • Seek medical attention early

The people most as risk of developing Melioidosis are those with conditions that impact the immune system such as diabetes, cancer, kidney and lung disease. People who are at high risk of developing Melioidosis should stay indoors during monsoonal weather.

Anyone concerned about Melioidosis should visit their local GP or hospital.

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