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Flesh-Eating Disease Usually Found In Africa Now An Epidemic In Australia

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Scientists in Australia highlight the worsening epidemic of flesh-eating disease in the country. The contagion becomes unavoidable as experts themselves are clueless about the disease.

Cases of flesh-eating disease are rapidly increasing in Australia, specifically in Victoria. The lesions are becoming more severe in nature and infections occur in new geographical locations.

Facts On Flesh-Eating Disease In Australia

A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia states that there were 182 new cases in 2016. It is the highest ever reported at 72 percent increase from previous numbers and worse is, as of November 2017, the number of cases swelled by another 51 percent.

On a global scale, there were 2,206 cases reported in 2017 compared to only 1,920 cases in 2016. Most common cases arose from the tropical regions of West or Central Africa.

Cause Of The Spike Baffles Scientists

The cause of the spike in Australia baffled the scientists themselves, according to Daniel O'Brien, lead author of the study. The situation is particularly disheartening because the disease was identified as early as 1948 in Victoria.

The scientists say that through these years, the environmental causes and mode of transmission of the disease to humans have remained a mystery.

"We, therefore, need an urgent response based on robust scientific knowledge acquired by a thorough and exhaustive examination of the environment," the scientists assert.

They demand that the Australian government implement effective public health interventions to address the outbreak. They also call for prompt and sufficient funding to conduct thorough and comprehensive research on the flesh-eating disease.

In the report, the scientists identified six pertinent questions that warrant immediate answers. They want to know the natural source of the bacteria which bring the disease, how this pathogen is transmitted to humans and also, do possums and mosquitoes act as transmitters.

Furthermore, scientists need to know the environmental characteristics that host the growth of the bacteria and why is it prevalent in Victoria and now spreading in new areas. Lastly, they need to determine the cause as to why cases are becoming severe.

What Are The First Signs Of Flesh-Eating Disease?

Flesh-eating disease is medically known as Buruli ulcer and is caused by a germ identified as Mycobacterium ulcerans. It belongs to the same organism that causes leprosy and tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization.

M.ulcerans produces a toxin that destroys tissue of the skin. The infection first appears as a bump, which can be confused with boils, lipomas, ganglions, lymph nodes, or fungal infection. In Australia, the bump is commonly mistaken as an insect bite.

This seemingly harmless bump on the skin turns into a large ulcer within four weeks. In more advanced stages, the infection penetrates the bone. Untreated Buruli ulcer leads to gross deformities, says WHO.

Buruli ulcer aggravates due to the weak immune system and no preventive measures can be applied at present.

WHO noted that the rising number of flesh-eating disease in Australia started in 2013. Of those infected, 10 percent were children under 15 years of age.

While the majority of cases are being reported from West and Central Africa, both Australia and Nigeria have also shown a significant increase in the number of people affected by the flesh-eating disease in the recent years.

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