Buruli Ulcer

Buruli Ulcer: Flesh-eating Disease Attacks Mostly Children

Buruli ulcer attacks and destroys flesh, causing large wounds if left untreated.

Flesh-eating Disease Attacks Mostly Children

Buruli ulcer is a flesh-eating disease related to leprosy that attacks and destroys the flesh. Tragically, 50% of Buruli victims are under the age of 15. The World Health Organization reports thousands of Buruli ulcer cases in 30 countries, mainly in West Africa.

Since 2000, American Leprosy Missions has invested more than $2.3 million in caring for people affected by Buruli ulcer and has helped to start Buruli ulcer programs in four countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.

Buruli ulcer usually begins as a painless nodule under the skin. If left untreated, a gruesome sore erupts, and toxins eat away at the skin, tissue and sometimes bone.

Wounds from Buruli ulcer can permanently cripple and disfigure a child. But all this can be prevented — if we just reach them in time!

Buruli ulcer can be treated with antibiotics alone if caught early, but the longer the disease goes untreated, the more extensive the surgery, hospital stay and follow-up care.

The longer it takes us to reach and treat children, the more costly it is to heal them.

Labi - Buruli Ulcer: Flesh-eating Disease Attacks Mostly Children

Labi suffers from permanent scarring and disfigurement caused by Buruli ulcer.

Buruli Ulcer Facts

  • Can eat flesh and sometimes bone
  • Can cause deformity, disability, permanent scarring and fatal infections
  • Thousands of cases each year in more than 30 countries, mostly in West Africa
  • 50% of victims are under the age of 15
  • 30% of those infected are at risk of becoming permanently disabled
  • Related to leprosy; caused by the germ Mycobacterium ulcerans
  • Disease transmission is not yet understood
  • Treatment is 8 weeks of daily injections of antibiotics
  • Severe cases require surgery and skin grafts
  • Disease is feared – thought to result from a curse or witchcraft
  • Affected people are ostracized

Meet Labi, a little girl in Ghana with Buruli ulcer.

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