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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Singapore warns of deadly illness
Cover of a Singapore booklet on Melioidosis
The Singapore authorities have issued warnings about the disease
Authorities in Singapore have expressed concern about the rising death toll from the tropical disease melioidosis.

Twenty-three of the 57 people diagnosed with the soil-born disease from January to July died, health officials said.

This pointed to a mortality rate of 47% - three times as much as with the deadly respiratory infection Sars.

The high death toll led officials to investigate whether Singapore may have been targeted by a biological warfare attack - but this was ruled out.

Melioidosis is listed by the US government as a potential bacteriological weapon.

No vaccine

The disease is most common in South-East Asia and northern Australia.

It is caused by bacteria that enter the body when contaminated dust is inhaled or when bruised skin comes into contact with contaminated soil.

The infection can spread from the skin through the blood to the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, joints, and eyes.

There is no vaccine for melioidosis. It can be treated with antibiotics if detected early.

Singapore has an annual average of 67 cases and 12 deaths from the disease.

The authorities have given no reason for this year's rise.

During the Sars outbreak in Asia from late 2002 to mid-2003, Singapore recorded 33 deaths from the viral respiratory infection.

Timeline: Sars virus
07 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Singapore quarantines 70 for Sars
17 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Singapore
12 Aug 04  |  Country profiles

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