Buruli Ulcer

Buruli ulcer is a skin disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans.  

The toxins made by the bacteria destroy skin cells, small blood vessels and the fat under the skin, which leads to swelling and ulceration.

It is not known how humans become infected, although it is thought that mosquitoes may have a role in transmitting the infection and is not thought to be transmitted from person to person. The number of cases in Victoria has increased and there have been more cases reported in people over the age of 60 and in localised coastal areas

The symptoms of Buruli ulcer infection usually progresses slowly over several weeks or months and is more common on exposed areas of limbs, and often over a joint.

If you have an ulcer, wound or swelling that is not healing you should seek advice from your doctor.

When making a diagnosis the doctor will factor in the following:

  • medical history
  • travel history – if you have travelled to an area associated with Buruli ulcer
  • physical examination – to identify a slowly enlarging, painless ulcer
  • swabs or biopsy taken from the ulcer, which are tested in a laboratory

Although the exact cause of infection in humans is not known, it makes sense to protect yourself from potential sources of infection such as soil and insect bites.

Precautions to reduce the risk of infection include:

  • Wear gardening gloves, long-sleeved shirts and trousers when working outdoors
  • Avoid insect bites by using suitable insect repellents
  • Protect cuts or abrasions with sticking plasters
  • Promptly wash and cover any scratches or cuts you receive while working outdoors
  • See your doctor if you have a slow-healing skin lesion

Further Information

  • Please see the attached information sheet on this page under Related Documents 
  • DHHS ‘'Better Health Channel'
  • Phone - DHHS Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Section on 1300 651 160
  • For more information about Mosquitos please see the Related Links section of this page
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