The bacteria causing a rare but serious disease was identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the first time in the continental United States on Wednesday, leading to the release of health advice to physicians.
During a study into two human melioidosis cases, Burkholderia pseudomallei (B. pseudomallei) was found in soil and puddle water samples in the Gulf Coast region of southern Mississippi.
Health authorities looked into household items and the area around the two unconnected individuals’ homes after they fell ill with the condition two years apart, in 2020 and 2022. The two individuals were not related to one another.
Melioidosis can result in blood infections, pneumonia, and abscess formation in addition to nonspecific symptoms including fever, joint discomfort, and headaches.
In the US, there are around 12 cases each year, most of which are linked to travel to tropical and subtropical areas where the bacteria is endemic.
An imported batch of tainted aromatherapy spray was connected to a 2021 cluster that encompassed four individuals from four different states.
Most healthy people who come into contact with the bacteria do not develop melioidosis, but the global death rate for those who do is 10-50 percent.
The CDC said people in southern Mississippi who have underlying conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, or excessive alcohol use, should take extra precautions.
These include avoiding contact with soil and muddy water, protecting open wounds with dressing, and wearing waterproof boots and gloves while gardening.
“Given the very small number of cases of melioidosis identified historically in the United States, CDC believes the risk of melioidosis for the general population continues to be very low,” the agency said.