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  • Deadly soil disease spreads to the Northern Territory's desert region

    Author: AAP

Central Australian residents are being warned against a deadly soil disease following recent flooding in desert regions across the Northern Territory.

The risk of a deadly soil disease has spread to the Northern Territory's desert region following heavy wet season rains in Central Australia.

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Melioidosis is a potentially lethal bacteria found in mud that invades the body through cuts and sores, but which can also be inhaled if it's stirred up by windy weather.

"The bacteria that cause melioidosis live deep in the soil and come to the surface following drenching and continuous rain," Centre for Disease Control director Dr Vicki Krause said.

The tropical disease is usually confined to the Top End during monsoons, but authorities have warned residents in Central Australia to be vigilant following recent flooding.

The highly infectious illness can lead to severe pneumonia and blood poisoning and has a mortality rate of 10 to 15 per cent, Dr Krause said.

"We usually see symptoms of fever, coughing and breathing difficulties, but the symptoms of melioidosis can vary greatly," she said.

There's been 17 cases of melioidosis in the Territory since October, and one person has died.

"A case of melioidosis was diagnosed in Tennant Creek in late November," Dr Krause said.

Those at risk of catching melioidosis include gardeners who come into close contact with soil and people with compromised immune systems.

These include people suffering from chronic alcoholism, diabetes, cancer or who are taking steroids.


  • Stay indoors during heavy wind or rain
  • Wear waterproof footwear and gloves around mud and areas of pooled water
  • Wear masks when using high pressure hoses outside
  • Avoid binge drinking.


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