An urgent health alert has been issued after a flesh eating skin infection was found in Melbourne for the first time.
‘Several cases of Buruli ulcer have occurred in the Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Brunswick West areas of inner Melbourne,’ Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said.
‘The risk of acquiring Buruli ulcer in these areas is considered low. However, this is the first non-coastal area in Victoria to be recognised as a potential area of risk.’
Buruli ulcer is a skin infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans, Pictured, a severe Mycobacterium ulcerans lesion on the knee
WHAT IS BURULI ULCER?
– Buruli ulcer is a skin infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans (M. ulcerans) usually presenting as a slowly developing painless nodule or papule which can initially be mistaken for an insect bite
– Over time the lesion can progress to develop into a destructive skin ulcer which is known as Buruli ulcer or Bairnsdale ulcer
Source: Victoria Department of Health and Human Services health advisory
All the identified cases had travelled to known Buruli ulcer risk areas which include Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, Bellarine Peninsula, southeast bayside suburbs and East Gippsland.
But Professor Sutton said genetic analysis of the bacteria from each person ‘suggests a common source of infection in the area’.
‘The potential source of M. ulcerans in Melbourne’s inner north has not been established, although the bacteria were isolated from the faeces of a local possum,’ he said.
‘The disease is not transmissible from person to person and there is no evidence of transmission from possums directly to humans.’
The ulcer is commonly found in west or central Africa and usually associated with stagnant water.
It can have devastating impacts on sufferers, including long-term disability and deformity.
Evidence has increasingly linked mosquitoes to the disease’s transmission and it can take anywhere from four weeks to nine months after exposure for a person to display symptoms, which may start as a red, raised area.