Killer germ ‘carried into lungs by medium’


25-January-2013

Public health commissioner Dr Jude Gédéon said this in an interview yesterday adding that the germ does not normally spread easily between people, and that while the second victim of the illness was admitted for long, the other was only mildly affected and released soon after he was taken ill.

None of the three had recently travelled, he said, adding the bacterium is found in the environment.

One of them was a foreigner, he said, naming the disease as melioidosis which he said is caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei – also known as Pseudomonas pseudomallei – which is not common and has never before been seen here.

Other sources said it infects humans and animals and is also capable of infecting plants and that it is found in soil and water, “being of public health importance in endemic areas, particularly in Thailand and northern Australia”.

The disease exists in acute and chronic forms and its symptoms may include pain in chest, bones, or joints, cough, skin infections, lung nodules and pneumonia.

“It is also found in south east Asia, Singapore, in Reunion and a few other countries,” said Dr Gédéon.

“You get this disease through broken skin contact to the bacteria or through inhalation of contaminated products which contain the organism.”

He said the Ministry of Health was considering many possibilities and considered the disease could be tuberculosis, a viral influenza, corona viruses but tests for these proved negative.

The pseudomallei can be destroyed outside the body by many disinfectants such as iodine, potassium permanganate, sodium hypochlorite, and ethanol or by heating to above 74°C but is not reliably disinfected by chlorine.

It is "accidental pathogen being an environmental organism that does not need to pass through an animal host in order to replicate”.

The police earlier said in an interview that they were investigating the disease and had recovered items including smoking pipes in the area where the victims lived.

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