Published On: Sun, Jun 23rd, 2013

Ghana to start Buruli ulcer education campaign

The Disease Control Unit of the Dormaa Central Municipal Directorate of the Ghana Health Service has begun an education campaign in selected communities to facilitate the early detection of the disfiguring bacterial disease, Buruli ulcer, according to a Ghana Business News report.

Ghana Image/CIA


The education campaign, organized in conjunction with the Municipal Directorate of the National Commission on Civic Education, has been designed to expose the people to the signs and symptoms of the disease and to encourage them to report suspected cases to the nearest health facility.

According to the report, available records show that 29 suspected cases were detected in 2010 out of which 26 were confirmed by the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research of the University of Ghana, Legon. In 2011, 49 cases were detected and 47 cases detected in 2012.

Buruli ulcer, one of the neglected tropical diseases, has spread greatly in recent years , particularly in western Africa.

What organism causes Buruli ulcer?

Buruli ulcer is a bacterial infection by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Like the agent of tuberculosis, it is a slow-growing, acid-fast bacilli. However, unlike TB, it is an organism that is found in wetland type environments.

Where is Buruli ulcer found?

The infection is found in over 30 countries throughout the globe, most are tropical areas. Africa is the place most affected with Buruli ulcer.

How does someone get infected?

This is has been the big question that has perplexed scientists. Some evidence points to the various creatures and flora that are present in wetlands. Snails, insects and fish normally harbor M. ulcerans and may be a source of infection.

Some suggest that the bite from a water-borne insect may be the source of infection. Most do agree that it involves introduction of the organism through some type of trauma.

Environmental changes like dam construction and irrigation projects may be associated with outbreaks of Buruli ulcer. Farming in rural wetland areas may also contribute.

What are the symptoms of Buruli ulcer?

Typically, it presents itself painless skin wound with a necrotic white or yellow base, typically seen on the extremities. The incubation time from the time of infection to a visible ulcer may be up to 3 months and probably only a small percentage of people infected actually get the disease.

Untreated ulcers can cause bad scarring and ulceration resulting in severe deformities. The spread of the bacteria either directly or through the bloodstream, can affect the joints and bone. It is rarely fatal.

Transmission of the infection from person to person is extremely rare.

See the World Health Organization Buruli ulcer Photo Library

How is Buruli ulcer treated?

Antibiotics and depending on the severity of the ulcer, surgery and skin grafts may be required.

What can be done to prevent the infection?

Several things to include avoiding insect bites, prompt cleansing of wounds, early detection and treatment of the disease and the use of the BCG vaccine may offer short term protection. In addition, educating the population of the causes of this disease is important in the prevention of this overlooked but serious disease.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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