Two Americans die in matter of weeks of rare illness never seen outside tropics

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American scientists are growing concerned about the arrival of a rare tropical disease after it killed a second person in a matter of weeks.

Tropical illness melioidosis has never been traced to the mainland United States, as it normally thrives in the baking heat of South Asia, Northern Australia and the Caribbean.

But a second American has now died of the disease in a worryingly short period, this time in Georgia.

Cases have also been traced to Kansas, Minnesota and Texas, suggesting it may be spreading throughout the US.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said it was urgently investigating the outbreak.

It has asked boffins to check for melioidosis in every bacteria which doesn't respond to antibiotics.

Those most at risk are said to be the diabetic, those with liver or kidney disease, chronic lung disease, cancer or other immune-weakening conditions.

Symptoms include coughing, short breath, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever and body rashes.

The CDC told doctors to look out for all those symptoms in patients who might have contracted the terrifying tropical illness.

Scientists are particularly puzzled by the fact the illness found its way to patients who had not travelled outside the US.

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The first case was diagnosed in March, with the CDC confirming a late July death of the disease in its latest announcement.

Though the sicknesses were found in different months far apart, the CDC said lab work showed the infections were closely related and may have been contact-based.

The only other known cases of melioidosis in America were in the far-away Virgin Islands and Caribbean territory Puerto Rico.

Roughly a dozen cases of the disease are typically seen each year among Americans, almost all attributed to foreign travel to hot places.

But this time it's different, with it apparently spreading successfully within the US.

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The Texas case of the disease involved 4-year-old Lylah Baker, a nursery student who was perfectly healthy before becoming seriously ill with melioidosis.

Poor Lylah spent a month in intensive care in Dallas, needing constant access to a ventilator before suffering brain damage.

She is now convalescing at Our Children's House in the city.

The child's aunt Ashley Kennon told the Dallas Morning News Lylah was previously in perfect shape.

Ashley said: “She was a healthy, typical little girl about to start pre-K in the fall — no underlying health issues previously. I mean just nothing.

"So it was definitely a major surprise to everybody not knowing where [the bacteria] came from.”

  • Science

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