Community & Business

13 January, 2023

Disease warning

RESIDENTS have been warned to be cautious when coming into contact with muddy water after two children in the Far North were diagnosed with melioidosis.

Aleksandr Frolov |
Aleksandr Frolov |

The children were diagnosed after experiencing prolonged sores and non-healing wounds, symptoms of the soil-borne disease.

Melioidosis is a serious bacterial disease found in ground water and soil, with increased cases following extreme weather events.

Tropical Public Health Services Cairns Medical Officer Dr Tonia Marquardt said the disease occurred when skin abrasions or wounds came into contact with wet soil or water contaminated by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei.

“Melioidosis is very uncommon in healthy adults, and rarely seen in children, but can occasionally occur in people with diabetes, kidney problems, lung problems and people on medication that lowers their immune system,” she said.

“Symptoms of acute Melioidosis may include fever, cough and difficulty breathing; the effects can be very severe and often require hospitalisation for antibiotic treatment.

“Sometimes the disease presents as superficial skin infections or abscesses in various part of the body.

“If anyone has noticed non-healing wounds or persistent fevers over several weeks, then they should be seen by their GP and checked for this infection, as it can require prolonged antibiotic treatment.”

There is no vaccine to prevent melioidosis. During the wet season, far northern residents, particularly those with an underlying medical condition, should take the following precautions:

• Wear protective footwear when outdoors

• Wear gloves while working in the garden, on the farm etc.

• Cover abrasions and sores with waterproof dressings

• Wash thoroughly (preferably shower) after exposure to soil or muddy water, and after working outdoors

• Diabetics should maintain optimal foot care


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