Queensland man hospitalised for Townsville floods bacteria infection will stay in treatment for six weeks
Originally published on 9 News
A Queensland man who has been in hospital for more than a week due to a bacterial infection linked to the devastating floods that hit Townsville will need to stay there for six weeks for treatment.
Richard Vernon, 72, told 9News he first began to feel exhaustion at his Magnetic Island home – where he’s lived for 30 years - on January 31 but went to sleep and didn’t think anything of it.
“I woke up at 9pm that night with a terrible headache, really feeling really, really unwell,” he said.
“The next day I didn’t feel any worse. I thought I’d leave it for another day and that was the weekend. On Monday I finally got to the doctor, and I was staggering by then – I could barely walk.
“As soon as I got to the clinic on Magnetic Island, I think they knew and they said, ‘Come here, sit down,’. And that was it – I got the ambulance into town.”
Mr Vernon’s hospitalisation comes amid the announcement from the Townsville Public Health Unit last night that 10 people in total have been treated for the bacterial infection, known as Melioidosis.
Of those 10, one woman aged in her 50s has also been killed due to the effects of the infection.
"Given the scale of the flooding we are expecting to see increasing numbers of a range of infections, not just Melioidosis, and we are proactively testing for these illnesses,” Dr Julie Mudd said yesterday.
"Melioidosis and many infections that stem from flooding can more severely impact people who are unwell or elderly or have existing chronic conditions."
Mr Vernon told 9News the feeling he experienced as a result of contracting Melioidosis is something he has never encountered before, and came as a surprise.
“This serious feeling of unwellness is something I’ve never really struck before and I was wondering what it is,” he said.
“It’s obviously on my property, because I hadn’t been playing in the floodwater. All I’ve really done (has been) in the light rain up to my shed and back.
“The floods have been absolutely horrendous, and now this on top of that – let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse than it is.”
He also said that, while the infection is not contagious and there is no danger of him being out in the public, he has been told to stay in hospital for six weeks for antibiotic treatment that can only be provided there.
“The treatment I’ve got since I got to the clinic on Magnetic Island has been absolutely exceptional,” he said.
“That poor lady who died – I feel terrible for her and her family, my heart goes out to them.”
Dr Mudd today reinforced warnings issued to residents in the Townsville area to take care of cuts and grazes when around flood waters in light of the 10 confirmed cases of Melioidosis.
“It is a very serious infection and it’s one that we do take very seriously, and that’s why we’ve put out so many messages to the community about prevention,” she said.
“While not every case can be prevented, simple things like making sure that you wear gloves and boots when you’re near the floodwater or cleaning up after the floods, making sure that wounds are cleaned and applied antiseptic and covered with a waterproof dressing – these simple measures can protect the public from further cases.”
Melioidosis is a rare bacteria that can infect people through the respiratory system or enter a preson's body through cuts and wounds that are exposed to wet soil or floodwaters.
Once in the bloodstream, it can potentially turn deadly - ultimately shutting down vital organs.
She also said that, while the Public Health Unit is not calling the 10 cases an “outbreak”, they are continuing to urge people to monitor any possible symptoms and to report any suspicions to doctors.
“The incubation period – so the time from when you’re exposed to when you get sick – can be as long as three weeks,” she said.
“In terms of the acute onset, it presents with pneumonia-like symptoms so, shortness opf breath, cough, high fevers… and basically a sudden onset of feeling very unwell. It can look very much like flu.
“In terms of the longer wound infections, we’re looking for people to have redness, pain, swelling at the site of a wound and then subsequently to get fevers and feel unwell.”
The Townsville Public Health Unit are continuing to monitor several other people who have presented to hospitals with symptoms possibly consistent with Melioidosis who will be tested for the infection.
Authorities are also racing to destroy hundreds of thousands of dead cattle across the north of Queensland that have been left in the wake of the floodwaters, saying affected farms could now be dry hotbeds for potential disease.