The deadly disease more dangerous than crocodiles is yet to strike in Katherine, but experts say it is is only a matter of time.
Every year, at least 50 people are affected by melioidosis - an infectious disease found in soil and water, particularly in the Northern Territory, northeast Thailand and Vietnam.
Only weeks into the new year and the soil borne disease has quickly infected five people - all outside of Katherine.
But Disease Control and Environmental Health director Dr Vicki Krause said it is only a matter of time before a case arises.
"Every year there is at least one case from Katherine, often more," she said.
"This is a disease to be taken seriously."
She said 10 to 15 per cent of cases each year result in death, a number which has improved significantly over the past 30 years since Dr Krause and her team began collecting data.
"Thirty years ago, fatality was at 30 per cent," she said.
"We now see people presenting earlier, and we can treat it better, but it can still be fatal."
While she said she was hesitant to provide exact numbers on Katherine cases in case the small population skewed the results, she stressed the small town as a high risk area, comparable to the rest of the Territory.
"The message we try to get get across to people is to decrease exposure to bacteria as much as possible, which is at its height after drenching rain," Dr Krause said.
"In some cases [melioidosis] can also cause sever sepsis and loss of limbs, but the most common presentation is sever pneumonia.
"However, one comforting thought is kids are at a lower risk compared to adults because they have a lower disease burden."
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Last year, the Katherine Times reported on two harrowing stories of people suffering through the aftermath of melioidosis contracted years before.
Both cases involved amputations. But Brian Roberts - a 63-year-old Salvation Army volunteer - didn't see the decade through after receiving a small scratch on a fishing trip around 2017.
He spent three and a half months lying in a hospital bed hundreds of kilometres away from home as he fought the disease. It was then months of daily visits to the hospital.
But in early 2019, the cut became infected and doctors made the decision to amputate his leg above the knee.
Mr Roberts passed away mere months after the operation.
The majority of cases last year were in people aged between 35 and 65 years old with a few over 70 years of age.
During the wet season, people should take the following precautions:
- wear covered waterproof footwear when outdoors
- wear gloves while working in the garden/soil-based environment
- cover sores and abrasions with waterproof dressings
- wear face masks while using high pressure hoses around soil
- stay indoors during heavy wind and rain
- seek medical attention early if concerned.
The people most as risk of developing melioidosis are those who have existing conditions that impair their body's immune system. These include:
- kidney disease
- cancer and/or on immunosuppressive treatments
- those who consume large amounts of alcohol (including those who binge drink).
Further information on Melioidosis can be obtained on 8922 8044 or online here.
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