An apparent outbreak of a flesh-eating disease is causing concern in Australia.
The disease, Buruli ulcer, usually occurs in west and central Africa, but in recent years there has been a spike in cases in several parts of Australia, particularly in Victoria.
Scientists have warned that the outbreak requires an urgent scientific response. This was the thrust of a recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, in which the researchers reported that Victoria is facing a worsening epidemic that is ‘defined by cases rapidly increasing in number, becoming more severe in nature, and occurring in new geographic areas’.
“As a community, we are facing a rapidly worsening epidemic of a severe disease without knowing how to prevent it,” the researchers said in the report. “We therefore need an urgent response.”
It is unknown how the disease is spread, but one theory is that the disease may pass to humans from insects found in water, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers said that a ‘thorough and exhaustive examination of the environment, local fauna, human behaviour and characteristics, and the interactions between them’ is required. “It is only when we are armed with this critical knowledge that we can hope to halt the devastating impact of this disease through the design and implementation of effective public health interventions,” they said.