Flesh eating bug in Australia: are you in an affected area?

Experts warn of increase in cases

November 15 2018

A flesh-eating bug is spreading rapidly across the nation, experts have warned, with 400 new cases expected to be reported by the end of the year.

The bug, called the Buruli ulcer, or Mycobacterium ulcerans, is on the rise, with Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) expressing concern.

Jett, a 12-year-old boy from Queensland, was in hospital for three months after contracting the bug and almost lost his leg. He is now learning to walk again, his mother Arna-Leigh told A Current Affair.

Jett could have lost his leg to a flesh-eating ulcer (A Current Affair)

Jett could have lost his leg to a flesh-eating ulcer (A Current Affair)

“It may be that mosquitos are biting possums and then biting people,” Dr Sutton said.

“It could also be possum faeces being contaminated it and people are getting it into their skin through cuts or scratches.”

There were 182 cases reported in 2016, then from January to November last year there were 236 cases. Experts are now concerned that it will spread further across Victoria and the rest of Australia.

Better Health Vic/Buruli ulcer

Better Health Vic/Buruli ulcer

The first sign of the Buruli ulcer is usually a painless, non-tender nodule or papule, often mistaken for an insect bite. In one or two months, the nodule may erode, forming an ulcer with undetermined edges.

A swab test can detect whether the disease is present or not. It also often appears on exposed areas on the limbs.

The bug can be prevented by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants outdoors. Cuts and abrasions should be kept clean and covered up.

If there is any concern, you should present to your GP or medical practitioner. The bug is usually treated with oral antibiotics, and potentially surgery to remove the tissue if necessary.

For more information on the Buruli ulcer, visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/Buruli-ulcer

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