Health authorities in Victoria have identified two new towns considered “areas of local transmission” for a flesh-eating ulcer.
People in Aireys Inlet on the Surf Coast and the Geelong suburb of Belmont should be aware of the risk of the Buruli ulcer.
Transmitted by the Mycobacterium ulcerans, the Buruli ulcer is an infectious disease that can kill flesh.
At first the infection appears as a pimple and often resembles an insect bite, but it can grow and spread into a flesh-eating ulcer.
Because the infection creates a natural anaesthetic, sufferers may not realise how bad the ulcer is.
Early diagnosis is critical to prevent skin and tissue loss, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.
“Endemic areas include the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas, but recent cases suggest that Aireys Inlet and the Geelong suburb of Belmont are newly identified areas of local transmission,” Dr Sutton said in a statement.
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“There have been a small number of cases detected in these areas, but the risk of transmission remains low.”
Buruli ulcer infections skyrocketed in 2017 and 2018, but cases in Victoria have tapered off this year.
But the newly announced areas of local transmission indicate the disease is spreading geographically.
It is not yet known how humans contract the bacteria, but there is growing evidence mosquitoes play a role.
Until doctors identify how the disease is spread, Dr Sutton recommended avoiding insect bites, protecting cuts and abrasions with sticking plasters and promptly washing and covering scratches and cuts received while outdoors.
The Buruli ulcer is also known as the Bairnsdale ulcer, after a town in Victoria where there was an outbreak in the 1930s.
In Queensland, it is more typically known as the Daintree ulcer.