• Norine Cruse

Lucky there’s no climate change, otherwise we’d have to worry about melioidosis.


It’s hard enough spelling melioidosis let alone knowing what it is. For those of you interested, its an infectious disease caused by bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in soil and water in areas such as northeast Thailand, Vietnam, and northern Australia.

It can affect people and animals and is sometimes called Whitmore’s disease.

Not a great disease to get, it can take just hours or years, yes years, to appear after exposure. Symptoms include pulmonary infection such as cough, chest pain, high fever, headache, muscles soreness and weight loss. For a moment there I thought I had it, then I read weight loss – I’m all clear.

Worse still, it can progress into the bloodstream to septicaemia or septic shock.

Weather is a big risk factor in exposure to melioidosis

Outbreaks of melioidosis are most common after a heavy rainfall, typhoon, monsoon, or flooding — even in arid regions. Pneumonia is a common first symptom during these periods. There may be other ways the bacterium is spread environmentally that haven’t been discovered.

Who is likely to get melioidosis?

People most likely to come in contact with B. pseudomallei in water or soil include:

  • military personnel

  • workers in construction, farming, fishing, and forestry

  • adventure travellers and ecotourists, including those who’ve spent less than a week in an area where the disease is prevalent.

Animals most likely susceptible include those in contact with contaminated water and soil, animals can pick up the bacterium from infected animals’ milk, urine, faeces, nasal secretions, and wounds.

The most commonly affect affected animals are:

  • sheep

  • goats

  • pigs

Cases have also been reported in horses, cats, dogs, cattle, chickens, marsupials, tropical fish, iguanas, and other animals.

Melioidosis prevention methods

There are no vaccines available.

If you are working in ‘at risk’ areas:

  • When working in soil or water, wear waterproof boots and gloves.

  • Avoid contact with soil and standing water if you have open wounds, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

  • Be vigilant about avoiding exposure by inhalation during severe weather events.

  • Healthcare workers should wear masks, gloves, and gowns.

  • Meat cutters and processors should wear gloves and regularly disinfect knives.

  • If drinking dairy products, be sure they are pasteurized.

  • Get screened for melioidosis if you’re about to start immunosuppressive therapy.

Seriously, want to read more, go to https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-13/melioidosis-cases-will-increase-as-climate-changes-expert-warns/10806960

The bad news is...

Even with newer IV antibiotic treatments, a significant number of people still die from melioidosis each year, particularly from sepsis and its complications. Death rates are higher in areas with limited access to medical care.

People traveling to at-risk areas should be aware of melioidosis and take steps to limit their potential exposure. If travellers develop pneumonia or septic shock upon returning from tropical or subtropical areas, their doctors need to consider melioidosis as a possible diagnosis.

And the good news is...

If you believe the sceptics there is no such thing as climate change, so no excessive rain, no flooding, nothing to see here folks – so don’t worry about it…..


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