‘I was really worried I might lose my limb’: Flesh eating ulcer is infecting hundreds of Aussies – but doctors don’t know why
- The Buruli ulcer has spread by more than 400 per cent in Australia since 2010
- Believed to be caused by mosquitoes carrying bacteria to humans from possums
- GRAPHIC CONTENT: Often starts out as a small lump but then grows over time
- One 18-year-old woman said she feared she might lose her leg from ankle ulcer
A rare flesh-eating ulcer is infecting hundreds of Australians and experts are still baffled as to what is causing it.
The Buruli ulcer, a tissue-destroying infection which has spread in Australia by more than 400% since 2010, was thrust into the public eye following an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in April.
Starting off as a small sore or lump, the bacterial growth slowly grows and can even consume skin and flesh down to the bone.
A rare flesh-eating ulcer (stock image pictured) is infecting hundreds of Australians and scientists are still baffled as to what is causing it
One recent victim of the ulcer has admitted she thought she would lose her leg as a result of contracting the debilitating infection.
Victorian Jacinta Mazzarella, 18, told ABC News she thinks she contracted the infection at her family’s holiday home.
The sore then grew to a width of more than three centimeters.
The Buruli ulcer, a tissue-destroying infection which has spread in Australia by more than 400% since 2010, was thrust into the public eye following an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in April (graph showing increase pictured)
The ulcers are believed to be spread by mosquitoes who have bitten possums (stock image)
‘It was really scary – I was really worried I might lose my limb,’ she said.
The young woman said she was unable to work or stand on her left leg for a long time and was unable to dance, one of her favourite pastimes.
Victoria’s state government’s data shows there was already 131 confirmed cases in the Mornington Peninsula district in 2018 up to November.
The infection is believed to come from mosquitoes, but while the CSIRO are carrying out tests on the insect, a consensus is still to be reached.
Data shows there was already 131 confirmed cases in the Mornington Peninsula district in 2018 up to November
Victoria chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton has previously suggested mosquitoes may be biting possums and humans and acting as a carrier.
The MJA report called for increased funding for researching the ulcer’s causes in their April report.
In the same month, state minister for health Jill Hennessy announced a contribution of $250,000 to help bolster research in the transmission of the tropical skin condition.
WHAT IS THE DAINTREE/BULURI ULCER?
An infectious skin disease where bacteria kills off skin cells, small blood vessels and fat under the skin, leading to ulceration.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
– Mosquito bites within wetland and coastal areas
– Areas with possum poo from possum species such as the common ringtail and brushtail possums
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
– A small painless bump, which looks like an insect bite commonly on the arms and legs
– Bump grows and swells over days and weeks
– Can often be painful during development
– May lead to a low grade fever
– The spot then becomes bright red and crusts into a non-healing scab
– Scab then disintegrates and turns into an ulcer
– Ulcer continues to enlarge
HOW DO YOU TREAT THE BUG?
– Oral antibiotics
– Minor surgery: Where a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue is cut out to remove the infection completely
– Complex surgery: Includes a skin graft where a healthy piece of skin is transplanted to where the ulcer is
PREVENTION OF THE ULCER
– Wear insect repellent
– Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors
– Cover and cuts or abrasions
– Promptly wash and cover and any new cuts
– Get a medical check-up
Source: BetterHealth Channel Victoria