Buruli Ulcer

What is Buruli Ulcer? 

Buruli Ulcer, also called: Bairnsdale ulcer, Daintree ulcer

Buruli ulcer is a skin infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans. 

Toxins made by the bacteria attacks fat cells under the skin, which leads to localised swelling or the formation of a nodule (lump) and then an ulcer.

At first, it can be mistaken for an insect or spider bite. It can also sometimes be itchy. Although Buruli ulcer is not fatal, the infection can often leave people with significant cosmetic and sometimes functional damage to limbs

Buruli ulcer cases are increasing significantly in Victoria and the disease is spreading into new geographical areas

People living in or visiting the affected areas including the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsula areas and the south eastern bayside of Melbourne, even for a short time are at risk of developing Buruli ulcer. 

The symptoms of Buruli ulcer usually progress slowly over several weeks, however occasionally it can develop more rapidly. It can occur anywhere on the body but it is most common on exposed areas of the limbs, such as ankles, back of calf, around the knee, or forearms or around the elbow. 

Prevention and assistance

Early detection is important and you can protect yourself from potential sources of infection such as soil and insect bites.

Although it is not known exactly how humans become infected, the bacteria causing Buruli ulcers can be naturally found in soil and it’s also important to protect yourself from insect bites and traumatic wounds, such as puncture injuries from thorns.

You can beat the bite by following simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Use insect repellent (picaridin or DEET based)
  • Cover up cuts
  • Immediately wash and cover any scratches received after being outdoors
  • Wear gardening gloves, long-sleeved shirts and trousers when gardening
  • Prevent mosquitoes breeding around your home

You can learn more about preventing mosquito bites and breeding.

Since the ulcer gets bigger with time, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can keep the amount of skin loss to a minimum.  If you are concerned, you should seek medical advice.  

Public information is available at Better Health Channel.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can reduce the risk of severe symptoms. If you are concerned you should seek medical advice, but especially when:

  • You have a slow-healing skin lesion or ulcer.
  • You have a persistent lump or swelling

What is the Shire doing?

Mornington Peninsula Shire has contributed $20,000 in-kind towards the Federal Government’s $1.5 million research to help control and better understand the flesh eating Buruli Ulcer in Australia.  

The study is being performed by researchers from the Shire, University of Melbourne, Barwon Health and public health experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, and looks into how the bacterial infection is transferred from the environment and into humans.

Shire is committed to ongoing research into the Buruli Ulcer and continual assistance in controlling this disease in the community.

The Shire has been supporting research into the spread of Buruli Ulcer by conducting a mosquito trapping program for over a year.

The Beating Buruli in Victoria project hopes to actively disrupt disease transmission for the first time and lead to the development of evidence-based policies and guidelines that can help stop the spread of Buruli ulcer around Victoria. More information on this project can be found on the health.vic website.

The Shire will continue to monitor and survey mosquitos throughout the Mornington Peninsula to find areas mostly affected, need intervention and learn more about this disease.

Further information

Information for the public is available from the Victorian State Government's - Better Health - Buruli Ulcer or by phoning the Victorian State Government's Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Section on 1300 651 160.

You can also contact the Shire's Environment Health Team.

Learn more about reducing the risk of mosquito bites and potential breeding sites on your property on our Beat the Bite page.