A germ that causes a rare and possible fatal disease has been found along the Gulf Coast, health officials said.
The bacteria were found in the soil and water of property of a Mississippi man who had come down with the disease, melioidosis. Officials told the AP they weren’t sure how long it had been in the soil but it is likely occurring in other areas of the Gulf Coast.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a notice last week to alert physicians to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of melioidosis. The illness includes a wide range of symptoms, including fever, joint pain and headaches. It’s treatable with antibiotics if caught early but, if not, can lead to pneumonia, blood infections, abscesses, and death.
It’s generally contracted through direct contact, especially through a cut on the hand or foot, with soil or water contaminated with B. pseudomallei. Worldwide, melioidosis is fatal in 10 – 50% of those infected.
About 12 cases are reported annually in the U.S., most among people who travel internationally. Two domestic cases have been reported in Mississippi in the past two years, with both patients living about 10 miles from each other. Both men recovered.
How to protect yourself
Individuals living in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi who have health conditions that may put them at higher risk—such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, or excessive alcohol use— should take precautions to protect themselves:
- Avoid contact with soil or muddy water, particularly after heavy rains, and protect open wounds with waterproof dressings.
- Wear waterproof boots when gardening, doing yard work, or doing agricultural work, which can prevent infection through the feet and lower legs—particularly after flooding or storms.
- Wear gloves to protect the hands when working directly with soil.
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