CDC warns of new deaths in U.S. from rare tropical disease … not covid-related

An extremely rare tropical disease has been detected in the U.S. by public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even as the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly across parts of the country.

Also called “Whitmore’s disease,” melioidosis is a bacterial infection most common to northern Australia and Southeast Asia, The Hill reported. The particular bacteria that is has caused a handful of infections in the U.S., along with two fatalities, normally is found in contaminated water and soil and is often passed on within animals and humans who come in contact with the source of contamination.

Contact via abrasions on the skin and through ingestion are the most comment forms of transmission.

The CDC says that officials have identified four cases of melioidosis thus far, with half of them resulting in death.

The CDC has not released any additional information about the patients or victims of the infectious disease, though the agency says that one confirmed case came from Georgia and had been traced to three previous cases in different states including Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas.

Officials tested more than 100 water and soil samples near the homes of the patients but none of them were positive for the bacteria that causes melioidosis, The Hill noted.

As such, health officials now believe that the cause of the infection was linked to some kind of product that was imported from the region where melioidosis mostly occurs. Possibilities include food and beverages, as well as a medicinal or even a cleaning product.

Health officials did note that human-to-human spread of the disease is exceedingly rare.

“CDC is asking clinicians to watch for any acute bacterial infection that doesn’t respond to normal antibiotics and consider melioidosis – regardless of whether the patient traveled outside the United States,” the CDC noted in a press release.

“CDC also urges clinicians not to rule out melioidosis as a possible diagnosis in children and those who were previously healthy and without known risk factors for melioidosis,” the release added.

“Although healthy people may get melioidosis, underlying medical conditions may increase the risk of disease,” the CDC continued. “The major risk factors are diabetes, liver or kidney disease, chronic lung disease, cancer or another condition that weakens the immune system.”

“Most children who get melioidosis do not have risk factors,” the release said.

Meanwhile, the health agency is continuing to deal with COVID-19, especially the Delta variant which is reportedly overwhelming a few health care systems in some of the most affected regions of the country.

But there may be a silver lining in the rise in infection rates: Vaccinations are picking up around the country as well.

“The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show new COVID-19 cases at a seven-day average of about 100,000 daily, up from about 17,000 a month ago. New hospitalizations have increased from just over 2,100 per day in early July to 9,300 in early August,” the Washington Examiner reported Wednesday.

“On the other hand, the nationwide pace of vaccinations has also picked up during that same time. The seven-day average of vaccinations was about 452,000 on July 5. By Aug. 5, that rose to about 608,000 — an increase of 34%,” the publication stated, adding: “The two trends are likely related.”

Jon Dougherty

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