Flesh-eating disease found in Melbourne suburbs of Pascoe Vale South, Strathmore

Two Melbourne suburbs have recorded cases of a flesh-eating skin disease that at first can be mistaken for an insect bite.

Several cases of a flesh-eating disease have been found in Melbourne’s inner north.

Victorian health authorities issued an advisory on Wednesday after cases of Buruli ulcer were detected in Pascoe Vale South and neighbouring Strathmore.

The discovery has expanded the inner-Melbourne area of interest for the skin infection, which has previously been found in three neighbouring suburbs.

Research has suggested a common source of infection in the area.

Buruli ulcer is caused by a bacterium that leads to lesions, usually on the arms or legs.

It can look like an insect bite and usually shows up as a slowly developing painless nodule or raised bump on the skin.

Sometimes it can be itchy and over weeks can grow into a destructive skin ulcer.

The bacterium produces a toxin that affects the immune system while continuing to damage tissue.

Since the ulcer gets bigger with time, early diagnosis and prompt treatment is critical to minimise skin loss and tissue damage.

If left untreated, surgery may be needed.

There’s increasing evidence mosquitoes play a role in its spread, so authorities advise reducing mosquito breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites are important prevention measures.

Experts say the risk of acquiring Buruli ulcer in inner Melbourne is low, although the geographic spread of cases has widened.

The disease was found in nearby Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Brunswick in February 2021 – the first time a non-coastal area in Victoria was branded a potential area of risk.

The potential source of these cases was not established, although the bacteria was isolated from the faeces of a local possum.

The disease does not spread from person to person and there is no evidence it spreads from possums directly to humans.

Disease can occur at any age, but notifications in Victoria are highest in people aged 60 years and over.

In Victoria, case reporting peaks in between June and November each year.

Buruli ulcer must be notified to the health department within five days of diagnosis.

Originally published as Flesh-eating disease found in Melbourne suburbs of Pascoe Vale South and Strathmore

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