- Specialists are investigating a strange outbreak of melioidosis, which has infected three people and caused one death.
- The cases occurred in Kansas, Texas and Minnesota.
- The bacteria lurk in the ground and usually enter the body through cuts and wounds on the skin, or by breathing in dust or droplets.
Specialists investigate a mystery outbreak of melioidosis, a disease caused by a deadly bacterium that attacks the brain which has already infected three people (two adults and a child) and killed one of them in the United States.
The cases, which occurred specifically in Kansas, Texas and Minnesota, were caused by a bacteria called Burkholderia pseudomallei, a terrifying microbe that hides in the ground and usually enters the body through cuts and wounds on the skin, or by breathing in dust or droplets.
The three recent cases involved “a man and two women, two adults and a child,” reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first case, identified in March 2021, was fatal.
“Two other patients were identified in May 2021, one of whom is still hospitalized. One has been discharged from a transitional care unit. None of the patients’ families reported having traveled outside of the continental United States, “added the CDC, according to The Sun.
Cases can share a common source
According to the authorities, “according to genomic analysis, these three cases may share a common source of exposure.” The three patients’ symptoms ranged from coughing and shortness of breath to weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and intermittent fever.
The patients also developed a rash on the trunk, abdomen and face, which was later diagnosed with infectious encephalitis. Burkholderia pseudomallei can affect both animals and humans.
The fatal case had several risk factors
“The fatal case had several risk factors for melioidosis, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cirrhosis, and died 10 days after being hospitalized. Genomic analysis of the strains suggests a common source, such as an imported product or animal, ”the CDC reported.
“However, that source has not been positively identified to date,” they added. The deadly soil bacterium is found primarily in tropical areas of the world, primarily in Southeast Asia and northern Australia.
Unusual Cases Cause Concern in the US
The microbe, which kills 89,000 people worldwide each year, can travel from the nose to the brain and spinal cord in 24 hours, scientists warn. Most cases in the United States occur in people returning from a country where the disease is endemic.
However, it is concerned that “these three cases are unusual because no recent travel outside the United States has been identified,” the CDC confirmed. CDC officials are working with health department researchers in Kansas, Texas, to solve the mystery of the origin of the infections. Scientists have theorized that the southwestern United States could have “habitats suitable for B. pseudomallei” that could allow the bacteria to live naturally in the soil, according to The Washington Post.
Difficulties in diagnosis
It should be noted that melioidosis is a “great mimic” of other diseases and a good microbiology laboratory is needed for the culture and identification of bacteria to make an accurate diagnosis.
The center said that “due to its nonspecific symptoms, melioidosis can initially be confused with other diseases such as tuberculosis, so appropriate treatment may be delayed.
What are the symptoms?
“Symptoms may include localized pain, fever, ulceration, abscess, cough, chest pain, high fever, headache, shortness of breath, abdominal discomfort, joint pain, disorientation, weight loss, stomach or stomach pain. chest and muscle or joint pain and seizures.
“The most common factors that make a person more prone to developing a disease include diabetes, kidney disease, chronic lung disease and alcoholism.” Melioidosis is not believed to be spread from person to person through the air.
Warning for medical personnel
The CDC has recommended that healthcare providers “consider melioidosis in patients with a compatible disease, even if they have no history of travel to a disease-endemic country.”
It’s not the first time health bosses have been baffled by potentially fatal bacteria. In 2018, a 63-year-old Texas resident who had not left the state in 30 years nearly died after contracting melioidosis.
When do symptoms develop?
However, no trace of Burkholderia pseudomallei despite intensive testing of the ranch owner’s water storage tank, soil, surfaces, and even pipes.
Symptoms generally develop within three weeks of a person’s exposure to the bacteria. But in some cases, the disease may not occur until several months or years after the initial infection.
Early diagnosis reduces risks
Melioidosis can be a serious and life-threatening illness and requires an immediate medical diagnosis with proper antibiotic treatment. In severe cases, admission to an intensive care unit may be necessary.
How is the diagnosis of melioidosis made? Scientists are able to grow the bacteria with laboratory tests of blood, sputum, urine, or a swab of an abscess or unhealed ulcer obtained from the patient.
Treatment for melioidosis initially requires intensive antibiotic therapy, as well as the management of any lung or kidney failure, shock, among other diseases that may be caused in the patient.
Antibiotic treatment is generally continued for at least three months to prevent a relapse. So far, the world has not developed a vaccine to prevent melioidosis, according to The Sun.
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