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Two Florida Melioidosis Cases Imported from Honduras

Nine lab workers exposed by mishandling or sniffing cultures of the potential bioterror agent

FRIDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Slow identification and poor laboratory procedures, including sniffing or unsafely handling patient cultures, exposed nine Florida laboratory workers to Burkholderia pseudomallei in 2005, after two patients infected in Honduras traveled to the state, according to a report in the Aug. 18 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Transmitted by inhalation or inoculation, the bacteria cause melioidosis, usually pneumonia, but can provoke abscesses of the skin, soft tissues and internal organs.

Melioidosis is common in Southeast Asia, parts of Australia and some tropical regions. The two 2005 cases were the first in Florida since obligatory reporting of the disease started there in 2003.

In one case, a 48-year-old Broward County diabetic with Guillain-Barre syndrome sought treatment Aug. 22, 2005 for fever, pneumonia, abscess and other symptoms. Despite antibiotics, the man was discharged as a paraplegic Sept. 26 after treatment for epidural abscesses along the thoracic vertebrae. He had recently traveled to Honduras.

In the second case, an 80-year-old woman was hospitalized in Miami-Dade County with pneumonia and fever Sept. 22, 2005, received antibiotic treatment, but died after myocardial infarction. She was visiting the United States from Honduras.

Nine laboratory workers exposed to the bacterium by sniffing or unsafely handling the patients' cultures received antibiotics. "B. pseudomallei has been classified as a category B biologic terrorism agent by CDC," the authors write. "All level A laboratoriesÂ…should have procedures for isolation and presumptive identification."

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