Mississippi State Department of Health discovers rare bacteria on MS Gulf Coast


JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered an “uncommon bacteria that causes melioidosis,” in soil samples from the coast of Mississippi.

This is the first time discovering the bacteria in the US

According to the MSDH, Melioidosis is a rare disease caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei found before in contaminated water or soil.

The MSDH says the investigation was conducted because two individuals – both on the Gulf Coast – became sick two years apart. Soil samples collected around the patients’ homes tested positive for the bacteria at the CDC.

“This indicates that bacteria from the environment was the likely source of infection for both individuals and that the bacteria have been present since 2020,” the press release read.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says most cases that occur in the US are because of travel to other countries where the bacteria have been known to occur normally.

“Typically, we see these bacteria in countries where the bacteria are endemic or where it normally occurs,” stated the MSDH. “Burkholderia pseudomallei normally occurs in tropical and sub-tropical areas like Southeast Asia or Central or South America. Because of the identification of this bacteria on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, persons at high risk for severe infection living on the Gulf Coast should take recommended precautions.”

The MSDH says symptoms include fever, joint pain, and headache. Infection can lead to pneumonia and blood infections (sepsis).

“Most healthy people who come into contact with Burkholderia pseudomallei never develop melioidosis. Those living on the Gulf Coast who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, or excessive alcohol use may be at risk of severe illness from infection and need to take precautions to protect themselves.”

Those at risk should:

· Avoid contact with soil or muddy water – especially after heavy rains.

· Protect open wounds with waterproof dressing.

· Wear waterproof boots when gardening, doing yard work, or agricultural work – it is critical to prevent infection through the feet and lower legs (after flooding or storms).

· Wear gloves to protect your hands when working directly with soil.

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