Melioidosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria found in contaminated soil and water. It is a disease that is especially common in Thailand and northern Australia, but also problematic in tropical areas such as the South Pacific, Africa or India. The bacteria linked with melioidosis is found in soil, rice paddies, or still waters in these areas. A person may become infected by inhaling contaminated dust or water particles, by drinking contaminated water, or by having contaminated soil or water enter the body through an open wound or scratch. Person-to-person spread of the disease is rare.
Common symptoms of melioidosis may include shortness of breath, cough, and fever. Additionally, the condition may cause a variety of breathing illnesses from mild bronchitis, or more seriously, pneumonia. A skin infection may develop if an opening in the skin is contaminated. This area can then swell and form an ulcer (sore) or an abscess (pus buildup under the skin). In more severe cases of melioidosis, symptoms may also include weight loss, disorientation, or seizures. Melioidosis symptoms are usually noticed within two to four weeks after infection, but can show up as early as the day after to as late as many years after. Diagnosis is usually made by examining blood and urine samples.
Individuals with other preexisting conditions that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes or AIDS, are more likely to get infected. These individuals should avoid soil and water in tropical farm areas that may have been contaminated with the bacteria. If left untreated, melioidosis can be fatal. However, this disease is treatable with medication. Therefore, if you believe you have melioidosis, contact your doctor so you may begin treatment as soon as possible.