Buruli Ulcer

Buruli ulcer is a skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans.

The bacteria produces a toxin which can damage local skin tissue leading to ulceration and skin loss if not recognised early and treated appropriately.

Early detection is important and most Buruli ulcers can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications.

Buruli ulcer is a skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans.

The bacteria produces a toxin which can damage local skin tissue leading to ulceration and skin loss if not recognised early and treated appropriately.

Early detection is important and most Buruli ulcers can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications.

Prevention

Although the exact cause of infection in humans is not known, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from potential sources of infection such as insect bites and soil:

  • Wear protective clothing when gardening : gloves, long sleeved-shirts, trousers
  • Prompt washing of cuts and scratches caused with outdoor activities
  • Cover cuts and scratches
  • Avoid insect bites with DEET based insect repellent
  • Prevent mosquitoes breeding around your home
  • See your doctor if you have slow-healing skin lesions

Background

Reports of Buruli ulcer have occurred in 33 countries across the globe.  Also known as Bairnsdale ulcer, M ulcerans cutaneous infection was first diagnosed in Australia in the 1930s around Bairnsdale and most commonly occurs in localised coastal areas of Victoria. Over more recent times, cases have been reported from Phillip Island, Frankston- Seaford area, the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas and other south-eastern bayside areas. Less commonly it occurs in Northern Territory and Far North Queensland.

The number of cases on the Mornington Peninsula has been rising since 2012 and research is ongoing into how it is spread, and the impact of the local environment including role of mosquitoes in its transmission.

Buruli ulcer is not thought to be contagious and all ages are susceptible to infections with the exposed arms and legs presenting as the most common site of infection.
The incubation period is still under investigation but has varied from one to nine months.

It is advisable to seek medical advice if you are concerned or have a slow healing lesion, a persistent lump or swelling.

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