Flesh-eating insect, Buruli ulcer, Melbourne alert

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WARNING: Images may disturb some readers

A mysterious carnivorous insect has spread to Melbourne’s non-coastal suburbs, prompting a new health alert.

Many cases of Buruli ulcer, commonly found in stagnant water, have been identified in Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Brunswick West.

Health director Brett Sutton said the new cases meant north Melbourne was now an area of ​​interest.

“This is the first non-coastal area in Victoria to be recognized as an area of ​​potential risk,” he said.

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“However, the risk of transmission in these areas is considered low.”

All of the identified cases had traveled to areas known to be at risk for Buruli ulcer, including the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, the Bellarine Peninsula, the south-eastern suburbs of the bay and East Gippsland.

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But Prof Sutton said genetic analysis of each person’s bacteria “suggests a common source of infection in the area.”

“The potential source of M. ulcerans in inner north Melbourne has not been established, although the bacteria have been isolated from the faeces of a local opossum,” he said.

“The disease is not transmissible from person to person and there is no evidence of transmission of possums directly to humans.”

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A case of Buruli ulcer on the knee of an 11-year-old Australian boy. Photo: Australian Medical Journal

The ulcer is commonly found in West or Central Africa and is usually associated with standing water.

This can have devastating effects on those affected, including long-term disability and deformity.

Evidence has increasingly linked mosquitoes to disease transmission, and it can take anywhere from four weeks to nine months after exposure for a person to show symptoms, which can start as a raised red area.

-AAP

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