An Ancient Disease Could Be Heading For Perth

The deadly melioidosis diseases was stirred up by the recent string of cyclones.

In normal circumstances the disease is responsible for about a dozen deaths each year. But that is because it is not very easily transmitted - it's usually dormant just beneath the topsoil in the tropics. However, the recent rain and cyclones in the north of WA could potentially have made it airborne.

Professor Tim Inglis, Head of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Western Australia explained that there may be a risk of the disease reaching Perth.

"Watch this space and particularly as we're talking about severe weather coming southwards over the main metro area," Professor Inglis explained to the ABC.

"We reckon we're going to see more of these cases partly as a result of what's happening with the weather.
"This is a time when folks further south than the tropics need to be sitting up and asking 'Could this oddball infection that's not responding to antibiotics … could it be melioidosis?'"

In the last few years the disease has spread as far south as The Pilbara.

The infection which is often misdiagnosed for tuberculosis or common forms of pneumonia can be fatal, particularly for people with pre-existing chronic diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease. Though there are efforts being made to warn the people of Western Australia, Dr Inglis believes most Western Australians are still unaware of the danger.

In the past, the disease was thought to mostly affect Indigenous Australians however as Dr Inglis explains to the ABC:

"…With more things like eco-tourism, with more industrial, commercial and pastoral development in the Top End it's inevitable that there will be not only more people, but more non-Indigenous people going down with this infection, and for various reasons that tends to draw more attention to it," he said.

Melioidosis can be caught through direct contact through activities like digging in the garden or even just by breathing in the bacteria.

Lead Image: Aerial photograph of Langley Park, Perth, Western Australia, Wildnrg.

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