The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now warning doctors about a strange cluster of illnesses they’ve found in three states. That illness is said to be caused by a rarely seen bacteria in the United States, one that’s killed at least one person and hospitalized two others so far.
According to Gizmodo, the illness, called melioidosis, isn’t normally considered contagious but can be highly fatal. Officials are not sure how these victims contracted the bacteria, but experts seem to believe they are connected cases.
The CDC announced that since March 2021, at least three people in three non-adjacent states (Kansas, Texas, and Minnesota) are known to have contracted melioidosis.
The first victim died 10 days after being hospitalized due to preexisting lung and liver issues. The other two, a woman and child, identified in May, have been hospitalized as well. One of those patients has since been discharged to a transitional care unit, but the other remains hospitalized.
The illness, also called Whitmore’s disease, is caused by the rod-shaped bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei and can affect many animals and humans. The symptoms are non-specific, resembling many other diseases, depending on where the infection is located in the body.
Most infections cause symptoms like fever, for instance, but if present in the respiratory tract, it can cause cough, chest pain, and reduced appetite. If it spreads to the bloodstream, where it’s capable of causing life-threatening sepsis, it can spread to the brain or nervous system and cause severe damage.
Automated tests can mistake the bacteria for another species making it hard to diagnose properly. This was the case with the first case, which delayed effective treatment.
Medical experts believe that even with aggressive antibiotics given through IV, the illness is still regularly fatal, killing between 10 percent to over 40 percent of its victims once symptoms start.
If that’s not scary enough, the CDC claims it can also lie dormant in the body, not causing illness until a person’s health declines for other issues.