What You Need To Know About Melioidosis

Melioidosis is endemic to Southeast Asia but infection to pet animals in Singapore is relatively uncommon.

1) What is melioidosis?

Melioidosis is a disease caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei. It is endemic to Southeast Asia and can cause disease in both animals and humans.

2) How is melioidosis transmitted? What is the risk of transmission to humans?

Infection usually occurs through direct contact with water or soil contaminated with the bacteria. For instance, animals may become infected if it ingests soil contaminated with the bacteria, or if the contaminated soil comes in contact with skin wounds, especially if they are immunocompromised. Periods of heavy rainfall may also pose a higher risk of melioidosis. Animal to human and/or animal to animal transmission is rare.

3) What are the signs of melioidosis in animals?

Symptoms of melioidosis in animals are varied – some affected animals may demonstrate signs of diarrhoea, pneumonia, loss of appetite or abscesses. Since this may not be easily differentiated from other diseases, laboratory tests are required to confirm the diagnosis.

4) What can members of public do to keep their pets and themselves safe?

Pet owners are advised to seek veterinary attention promptly if they notice signs of injury, illness or disease in their pets. They should also minimise environmental exposure for their pets, especially those with open wounds or that are unwell. This includes avoiding bringing dogs that are unwell outside as well as avoiding contact with other pets.

Pet owners are also advised to practise responsible care and take the necessary precautions when handling pets that are ill. This includes good hygiene, such as thoroughly washing hands before and after direct contact with pets.