Australia flesh-eating epidemic

This item appears on page 59 of the June 2018 issue.

In the state of Victoria, Australia, an epidemic was declared for Buruli, an ulcerative, flesh-eating bacterial disease originating in Africa, after cases of the disease increased by 400% in four years. At least 275 cases were reported in the state in 2017, an increase of 51% from the year before.

Buruli bacteria release toxins that kill skin, blood and fat cells, causing ulcers that are difficult to treat. Occasionally, ulcers become large enough to be disfiguring or debilitating. Ulcers usually occur on limbs but can also occur on the face and body. Recovery time can be as long as a year, and in some cases, reconstructive surgery is required.

It is not known how the disease spreads, but it is believed it may be either present in soil or carried by mosquitoes. It does not seem to be spread between infected people.