Health authorities warn Victorian residents of flesh-eating ulcer outbreak passed on from possums

Daniela PizziraniNCA NewsWire
Health authorities have warned of a flesh-eating ulcer outbreak in parts of Melbourne. Supplied
Camera IconHealth authorities have warned of a flesh-eating ulcer outbreak in parts of Melbourne. Supplied Credit: NCA NewsWire

Warning: Graphic content. 

Health authorities have warned Melbourne residents of a mysterious flesh-eating ulcer that is believed to be passing from possums to humans via a bloodsucking insect.

Buruli or Bairnsdale ulcers, which melt skin cells and fats, are infections caused by bacteria found in possums faeces.

Multiple cases of the oozing, red and inflamed ulcers have been detected in Strathmore – located in the city’s northern suburbs – and Pascoe Vale South.

The infection has also previously been found in Brunswick West, Essendon and Moonee Ponds.

Buruli ulcer victim
Camera IconMultiple cases of the infection have been found across Melbourne’s inner city. Mark Wilson Credit: News Corp Australia

Victoria Health has warned Rye, Sorrento, Blairgowrie and Tootgarook are the highest risk areas of transmission.

Deborah Friedman, chief health officer for communicable disease, said although the risk of infection is low, residents must remain vigilant.

Experts believe mosquitoes may be the missing link as research suggests possums cannot directly catch the aggressive cavity from other possums.

Almost 40 per cent of all ringtail possums in high risk areas carry the bacteria.

The infection cannot be transferred from person to person.

The lesions usually present as a slowly developing painless nodule or papule which can initially be mistaken for an insect bite. Picture: Supplied
Camera IconThe lesions usually present as a slowly developing painless nodule. Supplied Credit: NCA NewsWire

Reducing mosquito breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites are both important prevention measures, Ms Friedman said.

She said over a period of weeks, the infection can increase in size and lead to a mass loss of skin.

The wound initially presents as a painless nodule, which can be mistaken for a common bite.

Buruli or Bairnsdale ulcers are transmitted from possum to humans via mosquitoes. Supplied
Camera IconBuruli or Bairnsdale ulcers are transmitted from possum to humans via mosquitoes. Supplied Credit: Geelong Advertiser

“Early diagnosis is critical to prevent skin and tissue loss.” she said.

It‘s believed everyone can be susceptible to this infection however Buruli ulcer detentions are highest in people aged 60 and over.

Living under power lines and being frequently visited by local possums are two key risk factors.

Originally published as Health authorities warn Victorian residents of flesh-eating ulcer outbreak passed on from possums

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