A person has died in Townsville after contracting the dangerous soil-borne disease melioidosis amid a spike in cases in the wake of the north Queensland city’s flood disaster.
- Townsville’s public health unit says several people have been hospitalised with melioidosis
- More cases are expected amid the spread of mud from flooding
- People with compromised immune systems are most at risk
Townsville public health unit acting director Dr Julie Mudd said the patient died “a couple of days ago” and that several other people with the disease remain in intensive care.
“Currently we have 10 confirmed cases [in Townsville] with one person who is deceased,” Dr Mudd said.
“Not all of them needed intensive care but we have had a number of people who were significantly unwell.
“We are expecting more — given that we’ve had 10 so far, the period of risk is over the next few weeks.”
Dr Mudd’s latest comments come a day after she said eight people had been diagnosed with the environmental bacteria.
Possible melioidosis symptoms:
- Lung infections, from mild bronchitis to severe pneumonia (fever, headache, chest pains, appetite loss)
- Septicaemic pneumonia (infection in bloodstream and lungs) causing fever, headache, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, joint pain and disorientation
- Localised infections can cause painful swelling, skin infection, ulceration, and abscesses
Contaminated soil and water can infect people with compromised immune systems.
“Melioidosis is not a disease that usually occurs in fit, healthy people — it usually comes up in people who have chronic disease or conditions that impair their immune system,” Dr Mudd said.
“Our messaging has been around people with chronic health conditions being extra careful and making sure they’re not cleaning up mud and so forth themselves.”
People cleaning up after the floods are advised to wear protective equipment, cover any wounds and protect their airways if working around mud.
Dr Mudd said health authorities usually treated seven or eight cases of melioidosis a year.
“The wetter the season, the more cases we see, so we were anticipating an increase in cases in response to this event,” she said.
She said the risk of contracting the disease could continue for the next few months as contaminated soil is displaced.