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Melioidosis in Australia: Northern Territory

19 Feb 2024

According to media, Northern Territory Health has reported 22 cases of melioidosis and 2 deaths among swimmers in the Top End area from 1 October 2023 to late January 2024.

Melioidosis is a serious disease caused by bacteria found in surface soil during heavy rain. Infection occurs by contamination of a wound, inhalation or ingesting contaminated food/water. Human to human transmission is extremely rare.

Contact with mud, puddles and wind-blown soil during heavy rain increases the risk of infection. Symptoms include cough, skin ulcers, fever, headache, confusion, difficulty in passing urine, joint pain or swelling and bone pain. People with underlying medical conditions are at highest risk. Melioidosis requires immediate treatment with antibiotics.

Advice for Travellers

You can be infected by walking in muddy water, handling muddy items, or breathing air-borne particles for example when using a high-powered hoses.

You should take precautions against the disease by:

  • Staying indoors during heavy winds and rain.

  • Wearing waterproof shoes and gloves around mud and areas of pooled water.

  • Wearing masks when using high pressure hoses outside.

  • Avoiding swimming in affected areas.

  • Avoiding food and water that may have been contaminated.