FIFTEEN people have died this year of the soil disease called melioidosis, compared with just five last year.
This is nearly half the 31 people who were infected. Last year, the fatality rate was 13%.
One of the dead is an 18-year-old youth, but most of the 31 people who contracted the disease up to April 3 are elderly and diabetic.
Of the 15 who died, 12 had diabetes or kidney failure. Three in four of the people infected suffered from pneumonia, sparking fears that the bacteria might be airborne.
Those who were infected come from different parts of Singapore, so there is no single source of infection.
The Health Ministry thinks the epidemic may be linked to the heavy rains and floods seen this year. Floods could push the organism up to the surface.
There are three ways of getting melioidosis, also known as Whitmores disease. The most common is from the soil, through a cut in the skin. The bacteria may also be inhaled, or ingested by drinking contaminated water. Very rarely is it passed from person to person.
The Health Ministry sent out a directive yesterday to all doctors to be on the lookout for and to report all cases within 24 hours. The Straits Times/Asia News Network