Limited Awareness of Melioidosis in High-risk Populations Despite an Increasing Incidence of the Disease in Far North Queensland, Australia

Simon SmithDepartment of Medicine, Cairns Hospital, Cairns, Queensland, Australia;

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Elizabeth BuikstraDepartment of Medicine, Cairns Hospital, Cairns, Queensland, Australia;

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Sally RubenachTropical Public Health Services, Cairns, Queensland, Australia;

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Annie Preston-ThomasTropical Public Health Services, Cairns, Queensland, Australia;

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Josh HansonDepartment of Medicine, Cairns Hospital, Cairns, Queensland, Australia;
The Kirby Institute, New South Wales, Australia

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The incidence of melioidosis, an opportunistic infection caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, has recently doubled in Far North Queensland (FNQ), Australia. This contrasts with the local burden of dengue, which is nearing elimination, and the stable incidence of leptospirosis. This questionnaire-based study assessed the awareness of melioidosis among people in FNQ with risk factors for the disease, using awareness of leptospirosis and dengue as comparators. There were 427 respondents; 361 (85%) reported one or more risk factors for melioidosis. Only 69 of 361 (19%) had heard of melioidosis compared with 301 of 361 (83%) who had heard of dengue (P < 0.001) and 137 of 361 (38%) who had heard of leptospirosis (P < 0.001). In FNQ, Australia, there is an increasing local incidence of melioidosis, but there is limited awareness of the disease among high-risk individuals. Greater community awareness of melioidosis is necessary to implement strategies to prevent disease and expedite the presentation of patients with this life-threatening infection.

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Author Notes

Address correspondence to Annie Preston-Thomas, Department of Medicine, Cairns Hospital, The Esplanade, Cairns, Queensland, Australia 4870. Email: joshua.hanson@health.qld.gov.au

Authors’ addresses: Simon Smith, Elizabeth Buikstra, and Josh Hanson, Department of Medicine, Cairns Hospital, Cairns, Australia, E-mails: simon.smith2@health.qld.gov.au, elizabeth.buikstra@health.qld.gov.au, and joshua.hanson@health.qld.gov.au. Sally Rubenach and Annie Preston-Thomas, Tropical Public Health Services Cairns, Cairns, Australia, E-mails: sally.rubenach@health.qld.gov.au and annie.preston-thomas@health.qld.gov.au.

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