Story at a glance
- Four cases of melioidosis have been reported in the U.S., with two being fatal.
- Human-to-human transmission is rare.
Alongside the rampant delta variant outbreaks, public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now contending with new incidents of a rare tropical disease that has emerged in parts of the continental U.S.
Melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, is a bacterial infection usually found in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. The bacteria causing the infection is usually found in contaminated waters and soils and spread within both animals and humans through contact with the contaminated source. Ingestion and contact with skin abrasions are the most common vehicles of infection.
Recent genome sequencing at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta confirms that four cases of melioidosis are in the U.S., with two being fatal.
No other information on the patients has been released by the CDC. One case was confirmed in Georgia and was traced to three prior cases in different states, namely Kansas, Texas and Minnesota.
After testing more than 100 soil and water samples near the patients’ homes, none came back positive for the bacteria that causes melioidosis.
This leaves public health officials to believe that the cause is most likely an imported product or an ingredient found within an import, such as a food, beverage, cleaning product or medicine.
Notably, it is rare to contract melioidosis from another person.
“Although healthy people may get melioidosis, underlying medical conditions may increase the risk of disease,” the CDC wrote. “The major risk factors are diabetes, liver or kidney disease, chronic lung disease, cancer or another condition that weakens the immune system.”
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