U.S. health officials announced Wednesday that soil and water samples taken from Mississippi have contained bacteria that cause a rare but serious disease called melioidosis.
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Officials have alerted doctors in the country to be vigilant as patients may develop the disease.
In the southern United States, two people living in the Gulf of Mexico region contracted the disease separately in 2020 and 2022, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct swabbing in and around their homes.
Three samples, soil and puddles, tested positive for the bacterium (Burkholderia pseudomallei).
Despite everything, the CDC considers the risk to the general population to be “very low.” They are currently investigating how widespread the bacteria is in the environment.
Symptoms of melioidosis can range from fever, joint pain, or headache. It can cause pneumonia, abscess formation or infections. Worldwide, melioidosis is fatal in 10-50% of cases.
More fragile people living in Mississippi are recommended to avoid contact with muddy water, protect their wounds or wear waterproof shoes and gloves while gardening.
About 12 cases of melioidosis are diagnosed each year in the United States, mostly in people who have traveled to countries where the bacterium is endemic, particularly tropical regions. Other cases have also occurred due to contamination of products from these countries.