Melioidosis is a disease caused by germs that live in the soil. After rain the germs come to the surface and are found in mud and water on the ground. When it’s rainy and windy, the germs can get blown around in the air.

How do you get melioidosis

The germs enter your body through cuts or scratches in your skin. You can also breathe in the germs if you go outside in heavy rain or wind.

Who is at risk

You are more at risk if you have diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease or cancer, if you drink lots of alcohol, or take medicines that weaken your immune system. 

Healthy people can also get the disease if they work outside with mud and water and don’t protect their hands and feet.


The most common symptoms include fever, cough with mucus and difficulty breathing.

Other symptoms include skin sores that don’t heal or, for men, pain or difficulty when trying to pass water. If you are sick with any of these symptoms, you should go to a health clinic and see a doctor.


Melioidosis is a serious disease that can kill. Treatment with antibiotics needs to be started in hospital and then continued when you go home for a total of at least 3 months.


By avoiding contact with the germs you can reduce your risk. When it is rainy and windy, stay inside. If you go outside, wear shoes. If you are working with mud or soil protect your hands and wear gloves. If you are using a high pressure hose outside, wear a mask. 

Take it easy with alcohol - even one big drinking session can increase your risk.


For more information call your nearest Centre for Disease Control.


You can read this information on melioidosis in the following languages:

Last updated: 12 May 2016

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