Creating a healthier, better connected Gippsland.

Health alert – Buruli Ulcer is spreading

Status: Active

Date issued: 10 October 2023 (update to Advisory issued 09 November 2022)

Issued by: Dr. Clare Looker, Chief Health Officer

Issued to: Health professionals and the Victorian community

Key messages

  • Buruli ulcer is a bacterial skin infection.
  • Lesions typically present as a slowly enlarging painless lump or wound which can initially be mistaken for an insect bite.
  • Case numbers so far this year are higher compared to previous years.
  • The disease is spreading geographically across Victoria and is no longer restricted to specific coastal locations. Most recently, there has been an increase in cases linked to several suburbs in Greater Geelong and the inner north and west of Melbourne.
  • The highest risk for infection occurs during the warmer months, but it usually takes between 4-5 months for an ulcer to develop following infection.
  • Early recognition and diagnosis are critical to prevent skin and tissue loss – consider the diagnosis in patients with a persistent ulcer, nodule, papule, or oedema and cellulitis not responding to usual treatments, especially on exposed parts of the body.
  • Public health laboratory testing for Buruli ulcer is free for patients. A handling fee may be charged by private pathology companies.
  • Buruli ulcer must be notified to the Department within five days of diagnosis.
  • There is increasing evidence that mosquito bites and possums play a role in disease transmission in Victoria.
  • Prevention measures include avoiding mosquito bites, reducing mosquito breeding sites, covering cuts and abrasions when outdoors and washing any soil or water off your skin following outdoor activities.

Read the full advisory:

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