Found primarily in the tropical northern part of the country; Northern Territory, Far North Queensland and the Kimberly region in Western Australia, Melioidosis is caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei
. Exposure is most likely during the wet season when the bacteria are found in surface water and mud.
The bacteria usually enter the body through cuts and sores, when in wet or muddy conditions but inhalation dust or droplets or occasionally ingestion of infected water can also lead to infection.
Symptoms of the disease are varied, but are commonly seen as headaches, fevers, coughs, breathing difficulties, pneumonia, difficulty passing urine, sores that do not heal and weight loss. There is also a high mortality rate associated with infection. Persons more at risk of the disease include those with weaker immune systems, diabetes, chronic kidney or lung disease, cancer, the elderly and those who consume hazardous amounts of alcohol.
There is no vaccine for Melioidosis at present, so gardeners should ensure that they take appropriate precautions whilst in the garden. This includes; wearing protective waterproof footwear and gloves, covering any open wounds or cuts with waterproof dressings and ensuring to shower after working in the garden.
There is also the possibility of the bacteria becoming airborne so those persons who are most at risk should avoid being outside during high wind or rain.
For further information the following websites may be of use.
Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional.