Fatal Bacteria Illness Spreading On US Gulf Coast: CDC

by | Dec 26, 2023 | Environmental News, Research Updates

Home » Environmental News » Fatal Bacteria Illness Spreading On US Gulf Coast: CDC

The U.S. Gulf Coast is facing a new health threat as a potentially deadly bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, responsible for causing the disease melioidosis, has been identified in the region, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week. To date, three cases of the infection have been confirmed, raising concerns among health officials. This situation marks a concerning instance of bacteria illness spreading on the US Gulf Coast.

Julia Petras, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, explained that Burkholderia pseudomallei is an environmental organism found in soil and freshwater, primarily in subtropical and tropical climates. The recent case reported in Mississippi in January 2023 follows two earlier instances in the same Mississippi county in July 2020 and May 2022. This pattern has led to the concerning situation where bacteria illness spreading on the US Gulf Coast is observed, with melioidosis now being considered endemic to the region, and potential cases could range from Texas to Florida.

Petras highlighted that while many exposed to the bacterium do not show symptoms and develop antibodies, the number of infections could be higher. Fortunately, all three diagnosed patients have responded to treatment and recovered. The bacterium commonly infects people through open wounds or inhalation during severe storms with high winds and can also be ingested via contaminated water.

bacteria illness spreading on US Gulf Coast

Those most vulnerable to severe melioidosis include individuals with diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, or suppressed immune systems. Petras also noted that excessive alcohol consumption is a known risk factor, with binge drinking linked to cases in endemic areas.

The bacterium, which rarely transmits from person to person, has been known to attack various organs, causing pneumonia with sepsis, leading to higher mortality and worse outcomes. The key to combating melioidosis lies in early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which involves a rigorous regimen of IV and oral antibiotics. Meropenem (Merrem) and ceftazidime (Fortaz) are recommended for IV use, followed by Bactrim in pill form.

Petras emphasized the importance of early diagnosis, stating that the prognosis is generally favourable with the right treatment. She urged doctors along the Gulf Coast to be vigilant for signs of B. pseudomallei infection. She advised people, particularly those with underlying health conditions, to take precautions such as covering open wounds, wearing gloves when gardening, and avoiding high winds.

The arrival of B. pseudomallei on the Gulf Coast remains a mystery, but climate change is suspected to play a role, given the bacterium’s preference for warm, damp conditions. Originating in Australia and Thailand, melioidosis is estimated to cause approximately 160,000 global cases and 80,000 deaths annually. Due to its diverse symptoms, it is often under-reported and under-diagnosed, leading to its characterization as the “neglected, neglected tropical disease,” Petras concluded.

Also Read: Winter Arrival Delayed By A Week In Beijing Due To Warm Weather


  • Sarah Tancredi

    Sarah Tancredi is an experienced journalist and news reporter specializing in environmental and climate crisis issues. With a deep passion for the planet and a commitment to raising awareness about pressing environmental challenges, Sarah has dedicated her career to informing the public and promoting sustainable solutions. She strives to inspire individuals, communities, and policymakers to take action to safeguard our planet for future generations.

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