Deadly bacteria claims first victim after floods

A PERSON has died after contracting a bacterial disease during the Townsville flood catastrophe.

Townsville Hospital public health physician Dr Julie Mudd confirmed the death of a patient from melioidosis on Tuesday afternoon.

Dr Mudd would not reveal the age or gender of the patient nor when exactly the death occurred, although it is understood to be within the last week.

Melioidosis is an uncommon disease caused by a germ found in soil.

The majority of infections occur when skin abrasions or wounds come into contact with wet soil or water contaminated by the bacteria.

It occurs in some tropical areas of Northern Australia, including North Queensland.

The number of cases of melioidosis infections has skyrocketed since the unprecedented flood event.

Dr Mudd said two more cases were confirmed today, bringing the total number to ten so far since the flood event began.

There had been three reported cases of melioidosis in Townsville this year in the lead up to the flood event.

This is a significant increase compared to the 11 cases reported in Townsville in all of 2018.

"Given the scale of the flooding we are expecting to see increasing numbers of a range of infections, not just melioidosis, and we are proactively testing for these illnesses," Dr Mudd said.

"Melioidosis and many infections that stem from flooding can more severely impact people who are unwell or elderly or have existing chronic conditions.

"Floodwater is heavily contaminated with dirt and bacteria. The vital public health message has been to ensure flood water doesn't get into your body through cuts and scratches."

Residents in Townsville should wear gloves and shoes during the flood clean-up to prevent infection.

Those susceptible to these illnesses should leave the clean-up to others who are healthier.

According to Queensland Health, melioidosis can present in several different ways including:

- Infection of the lungs, which can range from mild bronchitis to severe pneumonia. As a result, patients may also experience fever, headache, loss of appetite (anorexia), cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and general muscle soreness.

- Septicaemic pneumonia (infection throughout the bloodstream, as well as the lungs) can cause fever, headache, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, joint pain, and disorientation

- Melioidosis can spread from the skin through the blood to become a chronic form of melioidosis affecting the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, joints, and eyes (disseminated). Symptoms of disseminated melioidosis infection include fever, weight loss, stomach or chest pain, muscle or joint pain, headache, and seizures

- Localised infections may present with pain, localised swelling, skin infection, ulceration, and abscess formation (with associated fever and muscle aches and pains).