Scientists in Australia have voiced concern about an apparent outbreak of Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating disease that usually occurs in West and central Africa.
The infectious disease has seen a spike in cases in recent years in several parts of Australia but particularly in the state of Victoria.
In a study published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia, the authors caution that the outbreak of the ulcers, described as an “epidemic” in the study, requires an “urgent scientific response.” They report that Victoria is facing a worsening epidemic “defined by cases rapidly increasing in number, becoming more severe in nature, and occurring in new geographic areas.”
In 2016, there were 182 new cases reported, a spike of 72%. But even this number was dwarfed by a further increase of 51% from November 2016 to the same month a year later. In November 2016, there were 156, which rose to 236 cases.
The environmental reservoir of the disease and how it spreads between humans are unknown. Most cases in Africa are associated with living near marshes and other aquatic environments. But in Australia cases, are often linked to specific modes of transmission such as mosquitoes and possums, according to Andres Garchitorena, researcher at the Institute of Research and Development in France and an expert on Buruli ulcers, who was not involved in the most recent report.
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