Buruli ulcer spreads in parts of Australia: 10 things to know about the flesh-eating disease
- The mode of transmission has not been established yet, which means there are no primary prevention measures for the disease.
A flesh-eating disease is spreading in parts of Australia which prompted the Victoria health department to issue a warning on Tuesday. The chief health officer of Victoria, Professor Brett Sutton, issued an advisory for health professionals and residents of the Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Brunswick West areas of inner Melbourne where several cases of Buruli ulcer, a chronic debilitating disease caused by an environmental Mycobacterium ulcerans, have been detected. The health department has directed to reduce mosquito breeding sites and avoid mosquito bites as there is increasing evidence that mosquitoes play a role in transmission.
Here’s all you need to know about Buruli ulcer:
1. The disease often infects the skin and sometimes bone as well and early diagnosis is critical to prevent skin and tissue loss.
2. The initial sign of Buruli ulcer is usually a painless, non-tender swelling (nodule) and gets often mistaken for an insect bite.
3. While the lesion can occur anywhere on the body, it is most common on exposed areas of the limbs.
4. The incubation period varies from four weeks to nine months, with a median of four to five months.
5. The infection can lead to irreversible disfigurement and long-term disability and the objective of Buruli ulcer control is to minimise the suffering, disabilities and socioeconomic burden.
6. Early detection and antibiotic treatment are the cornerstones of the control strategy, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
7. The mode of transmission has not been established yet, which means there are no primary prevention measures for the disease.
8. People of all age groups are susceptible to infection and individuals who live in or visit endemic areas are considered at the greatest risk.
9. Mycobacterium ulcerans grows at temperatures between 29-33 °C and needs a low oxygen concentration to thrive.
10. At least 33 countries with tropical, subtropical and temperate climates have reported the infection in Africa, South America and Western Pacific regions.