The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning Wednesday about a rare but serious disease called Melioidosis that has been detected in the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi.
According to the agency, Melioidosis can develop when a person comes in contact with a bacteria known as B.pseudomallei. The bacteria were identified in soil and water samples in Mississippi after two unrelated people became sick from the disease.
The two individuals were infected with the bacteria years apart – in 2020 and 2022 – both in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S.
The CDC reacted to the cases by testing household products, soil, and water in and around the patients’ homes to look for the bacteria, which was identified in soil and puddle water during a 2022 test. The agency believes the bacteria was present in the area since at least 2020 and was likely to have caused both people’s infections.
Melioidosis can be brought on by direct contact with the bacteria, causing symptoms of fever, joint pain, and headaches, as well as health conditions such as pneumonia, abscess formation, or blood infections.
Melioidosis is rare, with only an average of 12 cases in the U.S. each year, primarily from people who have traveled out of the country to locations where the bacteria is endemic. In other instances, Melioidosis has been linked to contaminated commercial products, which was the case in 2021 when four people in four states were infected from contaminated aromatherapy spray sold at Walmart.
Globally, Melioidosis has a fatality rate of 10% to 50%, the CDC said. The rare disease is traditionally found in tropical and subtropical regions, such as South and Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and parts of Central and South America and Puerto Rico.
The CDC is warning healthcare providers to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of Melioidosis as it expects to see more cases develop in the U.S., but said that it “believes the risk of Melioidosis for the general population continues to be very low.”
However, people living on the Gulf Coast of the Mississippi or those that have health conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, or excessively use alcohol, are more at risk.
If you are at risk of contracting Melioidosis, the CDC advises avoiding contact with soil or muddy water, wearing waterproof boots when doing yard work as well as gloves when working in soil.
Treatment for Melioidosis includes intravenous antimicrobial therapy for a minimum of two weeks, which is then followed by oral antimicrobial therapy, which is taken for three-to-six weeks, the CDC said on its website.