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Health alert – Buruli ulcer bacteria identified in inner west Melbourne


Buruli ulcer bacteria identified in inner west Melbourne 

Status: Active

Date issued: 23 February 2021 (update to Advisory issued 31 October 2019)

Issued by: Adjunct Clinical Professor Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer 

Issued to: Health professionals and visitors/residents in the Essendon, Moonee Ponds, Brunswick West areas of inner-Melbourne


Key messages

  • Buruli ulcer is a skin infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans (M. ulcerans).
  • Lesions typically present as a slowly developing painless nodule or papule which can initially be mistaken for an insect bite. They can progress to a destructive skin ulcer which is known as Buruli ulcer or Bairnsdale ulcer.
  • Several cases of Buruli ulcer have occurred in the Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Brunswick West areas of inner Melbourne.
  • A genetic analysis of bacteria isolated from these people as part of a research project suggests a common source of infection in the area.
  • The risk of acquiring Buruli ulcer in these areas is considered low. However, this is the first non-coastal area in Victoria to be recognised as a potential area of risk.
  • Early diagnosis is critical to prevent skin and tissue loss – consider the diagnosis in patients with a persistent ulcer, nodule, papule, or oedema and cellulitis 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 mosquitoes play a role in transmission, so reducing mosquito breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites are both important prevention measures.

Read the full advisory: Buruli ulcer bacteria identified in inner west Melbourne 




Authorised by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.
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