Queensland Health has warned householders cleaning up after Cyclone Yasi to cover any cuts and abrasions to avoid contact with Burkholderia pseudomallei, the soilborne bug responsible for melioidosis, a potentially fatal infection. Townsville Hospital director of pathology Dr Robert Norton reports nine cases since December, which he has described as ‘‘ average’’.
Patients with underlying illnesses are regarded as most at risk. Symptoms can begin with a chest infection, difficulty breathing, fever with headache and confusion, or pain and/ or difficulty passing urine. People can become ill from 1 to 21 days after being infected and the onset of symptoms may be sudden or gradual.