Flesh-eating ulcer spreading in Victoria

A flesh-eating disease that causes painless open wounds across parts of the body is spreading rapidly across Victoria.

At least 266 cases of Buruli ulcer (also known as Bairnsdale ulcer) have been reported across the state this year, with an increase in cases linked to several suburbs in greater Geelong.

The skin infection, which is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia, often begins with swelling or a painless nodule usually on the arms or legs and eventually develops into an open ulcer.

The disease has been found in parts of metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria including Brunswick West, Essendon, Frankston, Phillip Island and the Mornington peninsula region.

Last year, there were 227 reported cases and the year prior there were 165.

Health authorities say the disease is spreading geographically across Victoria and is no longer restricted to specific coastal locations.

People aged 60 and up are most at risk, however the disease can occur at any age.

It is is not transmissible from person to person.

New data suggests mosquitoes and possums play a role in disease transmission after the bacteria that causes the ulcer was found in possum excrement.

The incubation period ranges from four weeks to nine months, with an average of four to five months.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Deborah Friedman said early recognition and diagnosis is critical to prevent skin and tissue loss.

Positive test results must be notified to the Health Department within five days of diagnosis.

Anyone with symptoms is being urged to contact a medical professional.