Melioidosis also called Whitmore disease or Nightcliff gardener's disease) is an infectious disease caused by a Gram-negative bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in soil and water.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, told a national daily recently that he had not received any information of melioidosis and leptospirosis (caused by rat urine bacteria) outbreak in Belaga as alleged by certain groups.

“Someone had asked me about this. Personally, I have not received any information from the health authorities about such deaths or of a disease outbreak in Bakun,” he told The Star on July 30.

He admitted that a few years ago, there were cases of melioidosis reported in the state but vehemently denied any new cases were reported.

“There is no cover-up,” he said contradicting several eye witnesses accounts and a report by Malaysiakini recently.

The online portal reports believed there was a cover up of the outbreak and alleged at least nine deaths linked to the diseases have been known.

Micheal Mering Jok, a Belaga native also confirmed the existence of the melioidosis cases in Belaga.

“The one that I know personally involved my family members,” Micheal told Bintulu.Org during an interview at his office in Bintulu on Wednesday.

“My brother in-law and my two nephews – Micheal Kulleh, Melvin. These are the three cases I know very well infected by this disease.

He said another close friend Mr Leong from Belaga bazaar has been hospitalized in Bintulu hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) for the last one month linked to melioidosis infection.

According to Micheal the Health Ministry should be forthcoming on the issues and must investigate the cases.

“This can be dangerous to Belaga people as it can cause death,” he stressed.

Melioidosis is endemic in South East Asia and Malaysia. A research by University Malaya indicates the mortality rate especially in the septicaemic variety is very high partly due to lack of clinical awareness, delay in identification of the organism and purely clinical diagnosis of melioidosis is not possible.