A HUNT for answers is on for how to stop the spread of a flesh-eating ulcer threatening Ballarat beach-goers.
The Bellarine Peninsula, a popular destination for Ballarat holiday makers, remains a key hot spot for contracting the Buruli ulcer (also known in Victoria as the Bairnsdale ulcer). Known for impacting the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, ulcer cases are also cropping up further along the coast and in inner-Melbourne.
CSIRO will lead research into the infection epidemic, which has almost quadrupled the past four years across the state. There were 336 diagnoses in Victoria in 2018. The state government classifies the Bellarine Peninsula as a medium risk area.
Doctors are urging people to take precautions on the coast, particularly in being mosquito safe, cleaning and protecting cuts and grazes, and wearing gloves in the garden. But there is still uncertainty as to how the infection occurs.
The infection tends to occur in warmer months but with a four to six month incubation period, patients usually seek treatment from May to November.
Barwon Health infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Daniel O’Brien, who has treated Ballarat patients for the ulcer, has said the ulcers are becoming bigger and more aggressive.
Associate Professor O’Brien has said most patients present with a slowly growing ulcer on one of their limbs that looks like a pimple or mosquito bite which is usually painless and stays dormant for months before a wound starts to bulge.
He said this could make treating the ulcer difficult.
Doctors now claim a 99.5 per cent success rate in treating the infection, according to ABC News, but surgery is required in severe cases.
In a two-year study, scientists will collect soil, water, possum faeces and mosquitoes for testing as well as visiting homes of people who have caught the disease in a bid to determine how people are catching the bacteria.
This comes after an urgent plea from medical experts last year for researching funding to determine how the infection is transmitted.
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