3 February, 2012As the Wet Season's regular rains continue, cases of the serious soil-borne disease melioidosis are still being diagnosed
Given the severity of the disease, which results in hospitalisation and is potentially fatal, Top Enders are being strongly warned to protect themselves from contact with mud, ground water and soil, even aerosolized soil, which could be inhaled into the lungs.
"Already in the current Wet Season some 37 cases of this bacterial infection have been diagnosed," said the Centre for Disease Control's Director, Dr Vicki Krause.
"The majority of the 37 cases have been from the greater Darwin area, with others from Katherine, East Arnhem and Top End remote communities.
"The melioidosis bacteria live deep in the soil during the Dry Season, but heavy rains bring the bacteria to surface level. The bacteria can then enter the body via cuts and sores and can also be inhaled if stirred up by the wind during a storm.
"Contact with mud, ground water and soil during the Wet Season significantly increases the likelihood of exposure to the melioidosis bacteria."
Melioidosis is known to cause severe pneumonia and blood poisoning and have a mortality rate of 10-15 per cent, even with best practice medical care.
"Symptoms of melioidosis can vary greatly, but most commonly we see indications of pneumonia such as fever, cough and breathing difficulties," Dr Krause said.
"The incubation period from time of infection to acute disease can range from 1 to 21 days. In some cases the onset of symptoms are slower and will include features like weight loss or sores that do not heal."
Dr Krause said that in January alone 19 people were diagnosed with melioidosis.
"People with risk factors such as diabetes, hazardous alcohol intake, kidney disease, lung disease, cancer and treatment for cancer, and those on steroid therapy should stay indoors during heavy wind or rain," she advised.
"The great majority diagnosed with melioidosis, including the two people who have died this season, had one or more risk factors.
To reduce the risk of contracting melioidosis is it highly advisable to wear waterproof footwear around mud, soil and areas of pooled water and to wear gloves when handling soil or mud soaked items.
"Healthy people can get the diseases when exposed to mud, pooled water or aerosolized soil. Those who work outdoors, such as gardeners and building tradespeople, should always wear protective clothing," Dr Krause said.
"Anyone using high pressure hoses around soil should ensure their mouth and nose are properly covered to prevent them from inhaling the bacteria."
Anyone concerned about melioidosis should contact their local GP or hospital.
A useful fact sheet with more information on melioidosis is available at:
Media Contact: Robin Osborne 89 992 886 or 0488 692 781