Doctors warning after Daintree Ulcer case confirmed in Mossman


Karlie Brady


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The first case of the flesh-eating Daintree Ulcer has been confirmed in the Mossman area. Image: Newsport.

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has confirmed the Far North’s first case of Daintree Ulcer for the year has been contracted by someone living in the Mossman area in the past week.

Tropical Public Health Cairns director, Dr Richard Gair, said the rare flesh-eating bacteria called Mycobacterium ulcerans causes an infection of the skin which leads to an ulcer.

“This ulcer can sometimes be treated with antibiotics but sometimes antibiotics aren’t enough, and surgery is required to treat the ulcer,” Dr Gair said.

“If untreated the ulcer can enlarge and start to invade deeper structures and that can sometimes require surgery to cut the ulcer out and in very rare cases it may be necessary to remove part of the limb.”

The Far North sees on average five or six cases of Daintree Ulcer per year; however, doctors are uncertain as to how the bacteria is transmitted to humans or where it comes from.

“We see Daintree Ulcer in Far North Queensland and it usually comes from the areas around Daintree, Mossman and Wonga Beach,” Dr Gair said.

“The difficulty with knowing where the cases come from is twofold, first of all, we don’t know where exactly the organism is in the environment.

“We don’t think that it lives freely in the environment, it needs to have some sort of a host and there have been various theories as to what that host might be, it has been detected in possums and insects.

“We also don’t know how it is transmitted to people and the difficulty is made more by the fact that the incubation period can be several months so when someone develops the disease it could have been due to an exposure anywhere they have been in the last six to twelve months,” he said.

The main symptom of the infection is an ulcer on the skin that slowly grows bigger and fails to heal.

Anyone presenting with symptoms should see a doctor for treatment.

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