A dangerous bacteria found in soil has claimed the lives of 10 people in the Northern Territory, the Centre for Disease Control says.
Melioidosis usually strikes during the northern Australian wet season, which runs from about November until April.
The centre’s acting director, Dr Peter Markey, says about 20 to 30 infections usually occur each wet season, resulting in between two and four deaths.
But Dr Markey says this wet season has seen the number of infections surge.
“This year we’ve had 72 cases so far,” he said.
“That is over three times [what we would normally expect] and well ahead of any other season that we’ve had.
“And 10 of those people have sadly passed away from the melioidosis.”
He says all of the people who have died have been aged over 30 and had pre-existing medical conditions, including diabetes, lung disease and alcohol problems.
Dr Markey says melioidosis infections had occurred in urban and rural areas of Darwin, in Arnhem Land, in Katherine and in Central Australia.
“The bacteria live in the soil in the tropics and people can become unwell either inhaling the bacteria if they come into close contact with it or acquiring the infection through the skin via a cut or a sore.”
He said people should wear gloves and shoes when in contact with muddy soil to lower the risk of infection.