Deadly bacteria spreads across NT

BAD BUG: A potentially fatal bacteria has been found in mud across the Northern Australia. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

BAD BUG: A potentially fatal bacteria has been found in mud across the Northern Australia. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

HEALTH authorities are warning about the dangers of the potentially fatal disease, melioidois, across the Northern Territory. 

The bacteria, commonly known as gardener’s disease, is found in soil and muddy puddles across the Top End. 

Seventeen cases have been reported in the NT since October, including one fatality.

Health experts say the number of cases is high compared with previous years. 

Centre for Disease Control director Vicki Krause said infection can lead to severe pneumonia and blood poisoning.

“During the dry season, melioidosis bacteria live deep in the soil, but during the wet season, larger amounts of the bacteria come to the surface and the potential for contact with people is increased,” Dr Krause said. 

The infection can enter the body through cuts, sores, inhalation of dirt particles or ingestion of contaminated water. 

Mortality rate ranges from 10 to 15 per cent of cases. 

Symptoms can be delayed for up to 21 days after infection and can include fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. 

It is advised to stay indoors during heavy wind and rain, and wear waterproof footwear, particularly if you have a weakened immune system. 

People with weaker immune systems, such as those with diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, cancer and treatment for cancer, and people on steroid therapy are at greater risk of developing the disease if the bacteria enter their body, Dr Krause said.

“People who drink an increased amount alcohol are at higher risk of getting melioidosis, this includes those who binge drink.”

“Gardeners, labourers and other people who work with soil should always wear protective clothing, as healthy people can get the disease if they work in or are exposed to mud, pooled water or aerosolised soil,” she said.

Anyone concerned about melioidosis should contact their GP or hospital.