Flesh-eating infection spreading fast through Australia – urgent health alert issued

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New cases of the Buruli ulcer were detected in Australia in the Essendon, Moonee Ponds, and Brunswick areas of Melbourne. The infection is usually detected in coastal areas but it is feared it is now spreading to non-coastal parts of the country. The horrific skin infection can result in lesions and sufferers may have to resort to extensive surgery if the disease is left untreated.

Researchers are still trying to discover how the Buruli ulcer spreads to humans.

Speaking to ABC, Professor Tim Stinear, from the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, said: “It is a flesh-eating disease but it’s a very slowly moving one, one we can treat and if we detect it early then it’s not a serious infection.

“If people present with a small mosquito bite that doesn’t look quite right there’s a very good diagnostic test.

“If you’re given the right antibiotics then there’s a really good clinical outcome for people.”

Alarm has been raised after multiple cases have been identified in Australia.

Australian chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton has now issued a health alert.

The Buruli ulcer is caused by a bacterium that becomes toxic within the human body.

The bacterium also affects the immune system and leads to inflammation and lesions on the skin.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a statement about Buruli ulcer on its website.

The WHO statement reads: “Buruli ulcer is a chronic debilitating disease caused by an environmental Mycobacterium ulcerans.

“It often affects the skin and sometimes bone and can lead to permanent disfigurement and long-term disability.

“At least 33 countries with tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates have reported Buruli ulcer in Africa, South America, and Western Pacific regions.

“The mode of transmission is not known and there is no prevention for the disease.”

The organisation goes on to state that, “although the causative organism of Buruli ulcer is an environmental bacterium, the mode of transmission to humans remains unknown.

“The organism produces a unique toxin – mycolactone – that causes the damage to the skin.

“Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to minimising morbidity, costs and prevent long-term disability.”

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