NewsDesk @bactiman63

Hong Kong health officials reported an additional confirmed melioidosis infection case had been recorded in the past week (November 26 to December 2), bringing the total cases to 38 in 2022.

Hong Kong/CIA

The case involves a 70-year-old female with diabetes living at Un Chau Street, Cheung Sha Wan. She developed dizziness and fever since November 17. She attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Caritas Medical Centre on November 19 and was admitted on the same day. Her clinical diagnosis was a chest infection. She is still hospitalised and her current condition is stable.

Her sputum specimen was confirmed positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei by the Department of Health’s  Public Health Laboratory Services Branch. One of her family members was a confirmed melioidosis case in mid-September this year. As the incubation period of melioidosis can reach several months, the possibility that they were exposed to the same polluted environment and infected earlier cannot be ruled out. An epidemiological investigation of the case is ongoing.

Melioidosis (also known as Whitmore disease and Nightcliff gardener’s disease) is caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei. The disease though somewhat rare has been seen in areas of Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, particularly after heavy rains. In Thailand it is considered a disease of rice farmers.

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The organism is saprophytically found in soil and water. People usually get infected by contact with contaminated soil or water through skin wounds, inhalation or rarely through ingestion of contaminated water.

Person to person transmission can occur through contact with blood and body fluids of an infected person.

Depending on how heavy the infection incubation can range from hours to weeks. Infection may show no symptoms but it can quickly progress to disseminated disease involving skin and a variety of organs.

Pneumonia from B. pseudomallei can be seen either in acute or chronic disease. Chronic pulmonary meloidosis may present itself years after exposure and can mimic tuberculosis.

Fatality rates of melioidosis can reach up to 75 percent even with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Fatalities are particularly greater in those with underlying conditions like diabetes mellitus or renal disease.