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Buruli ulcer in Australia - Melbourne

06 May 2022

The Victoria Department of Health reports Buruli ulcer is spreading in the city of Melbourne. The disease has occurred in north Melbourne and coastal areas of the State of Victoria in previous years. According to media, there have been 39 cases in Victoria this year, as of 4 May 2022.

The areas of highest risk are Rye, Sorrento, Blairgowrie and Tootgarook on the Mornington Peninsula. Also affected are Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads, Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff), Frankston and Seaford on the Bellarine Peninsula. There is lower risk in other parts of the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas, as well as in the South Eastern Bayside suburbs and East Gippsland.

Buruli ulcer is due to a bacterial infection that begins as a raised, painless spot and develops into a deep ulcer over a period of weeks. Contaminated water and insect bites are possible routes of transmission. The infection is not transmitted between people. There is no vaccine although the infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Advice to travellers

Longer term travellers to endemic regions, including Melbourne, should be advised of the risk of Buruli ulcer disease. They should be encouraged to have any new skin lesions medically assessed, ensuring they mention their travel history if back in the UK.

The precise mode of transmission is unknown but the following measures should be discussed with travellers to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Insect bite avoidance
  • Wound care; ensuring all wounds are treated quickly and appropriately and covered by dressings when working outside, especially with stagnant water bodies
  • Wearing of protective clothing during water contact and/or when working outside

For further information see Buruli ulcer and insect bite avoidance.