CDC Reports 4 Cases of Melioidosis, 2 Fatalities

The cases include children and adults across four states.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement this week confirming the fourth case of the rare disease melioidosis. There has been 2 fatalities, and the people infected lived in Kansas, Minnesota, Georgia, and Texas.

This infectious disease is also called Whitmore’s disease—named after the discoverer Alfred Whitmore in the early 20th century—can infect humans or animals. Melioidosis is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei.

CDC reported it has collected and tested more than 100 samples from products, soil, and water in and around the patients’ homes, but none of the samples have yet been positive for the bacteria.

The federal agency believes the cause is most likely from an imported product that could include food, drinks, medicine, personal care or cleaning products or an ingredient in one of these ingredients.

The bacteria, Burkholderia pseudomallei, normally lives in moist soil and water, and is typically found in tropical environments in South Asia.

The CDC pointed out none of the patients traveled internationally, and that finding the source of infection in these cases might be difficult because:

  • The patients are spread apart by geography and time their illness began.
  • Each could have been exposed to potentially hundreds of products before they became ill.
  • Unlike the germs that cause most foodborne outbreaks, the bacteria responsible for melioidosis can take two to three weeks to make someone sick. This expands the window of time that investigators need to explore and means people may be less likely to remember everything they were exposed to before becoming ill.

The agency also wanted to let clinicians know that for patients who have acute bacterial infections and are not responding to antibiotics to consider melioidosis as a potential diagnosis, even if the patient has not traveled outside the US. And to also keep open the possibility it could occur in healthy children. Two of the four recent cases were in the pediatric population.

And for the general public, for anyone experiencing cough, chest pain, high fever, headache or unexplained weight loss should see their medical provider.