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.

Buruli Ulcer research on the Peninsula continues

At its Council Meeting on 13 August 2019, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council made a Notice of Motion that requested further information be provided back to Council in relation to the Beating Buruli Project in Victoria.

These recommendations were discussed with the Buruli Ulcer National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project Team and Beating Buruli in the Victoria Mosquito Intervention Team.

Below are the recommendations as part of the Notice of Motion and the results:

That the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council requests that the relevant expert advice be provided to Council with information and evidence regarding alternative approaches to spraying that alleviates harm to the ecosystem and biodiversity, within four weeks of the date of this resolution.

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, a partner in the Beating Buruli in Victoria research project, sought alternative methods to those proposed as part of the study aimed at reducing mosquito numbers and evaluating the effect on the spread of the Buruli Ulcer.

Amongst the alternative approaches was a ‘source reduction’ method, which would involve a comprehensive community-based program aimed at reducing the breeding of mosquitoes in stagnant water on private and public land.

It would involve a door-to-door program, where mosquito experts would help home and business owners identify mosquito breeding sites on their property and then take steps to reduce mosquito numbers.

Mosquito surveillance will continue as planned between November 2019 and April 2020.

The surveillance program will include the installation of 180 mosquito traps on the Peninsula in the original study area, as well as other bayside locations where the Buruli Ulcer has been reported.

The traps will be installed from mid-November and will be emptied every fortnight over a 25-week period.

The traps were specific to mosquitoes and will not catch other insects, such as bees.

To learn more, read our latest Buruli Ulcer media release

The Shire undertakes a comprehensive community consultation on the use of spraying within six weeks of receiving the information in Item 1, which will listen to the community’s concerns and act accordingly.

Community concerns about the impacts of spraying were raised directly with council, in other public forums and via a community meeting. Council considered all feedback and spraying will no longer be undertaken as part of this scientific study.

That the Shire will not take a position on the proposed spraying until Items 1 and 2 are complete.

As spraying will not be undertaken as part of this scientific study the Shire does not have to take a position for the Beating Buruli in Victoria Project.

That the Shire requests that the Federal Minister for Health and any other relevant sources or organisations be asked to facilitate any necessary resources to the Buruli Ulcer study, as determined by the actions as listed in Items 1, 2 and 3.

Key stakeholders in the project teams are exploring options to further resource this scientific study.

As the Shire has now received the additional information on alternatives to spraying, the Shire is now in a position to request additional resources from the Federal Minister of Health and other relevant organisations.

That a report be brought to Council detailing the Beating the Buruli in Victoria Project Community Consultation Strategy and the Mosquito Control Component of the project.

You can view the Beating Buruli in Victoria: Mosquito Control Study at the health.vic website. This document provides you with details on the project and mosquito control aspect.

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.