Sabah Health Dept detects 44 melioidosis cases so far this year

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Health Department confirmed the detection of active Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria at the rugby field in Tanjung Aru.

The bacteria is a causative agent of melioidosis, an infectious disease that could lead to death if not treated early.

According to the state health director, Datuk Dr Asits Sanna, they were notified of the case on March 11 after a player came in sick after playing at the rugby field.

“The patient disclosed that he was suffering a leg injury while playing rugby, and we believe that may have caused the infection,” said Dr Asits, in a statement, on Sunday (April 13) responding to a Facebook posting over the issuance of an Environmental Control for Melioidosis Infection Disease at the rugby field.

Dr Asits added that as of the 14th Epidemiology Week (ME) this year, the department registered a total of 44 melioidosis cases across the state, which is an increase of 12.8%, compared to 39 cases recorded during the same period last year.

“Sandakan tops the list of the most recorded cases with 12 incidences, followed by Kota Kinabalu (11), five each in Papar and Penampang, and two each in Sipitang and Keningau,” he said.

Melioidosis, also called Whitmore's disease, is an infectious disease that can infect humans or animals and is caused by the Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria, which is found in contaminated soil and water.

Infection often occurs during the rainy season and infection can be transmitted through the respiratory tract (dust or contaminated water droplets), consuming contaminated water, or through wounds.

“Those suffering chronic diseases such as diabetes, thalassemia, cancer, liver, kidney, or other low body immunity illnesses have a higher risk of getting sick,” he said.

Among the symptoms are high fever, chronic cough, loss of appetite, abdominal or chest pain, muscle or joint pain, headache, and extreme tiredness, to mention some.

Dr Asits however said that the disease can be treated by taking certain antibiotics, and advised those with the symptoms to seek immediate treatment before their condition gets worse.

“For now, avoid exposure to contaminated soil and water sources, especially those with wounds on the skin, or chronic disease sufferers.

“Those who work involving contaminated soil and water resources should use waterproof shoes, gloves and face masks. If there are wounds on the body, wash and cover it perfectly,” he said.

The department will continue to monitor and enhance its awareness programmes to educate people about the disease.

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