Buruli ulcer the next pandemic? The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, and its guru Dr. Fauci, have been trying to warn people that more pandemics are inevitable. Of course, no-one wants to hear or believe that, but history, and our growing worldwide interdependence, make it a certainty. The question is, are we sensible enough to start preparing now? One would hope so, but the evidence says that’s probably wishful thinking.

     I read an article recently that indicates a, not the, next pandemic might already be here. It’s more frightening than COVID-19, and we appear to know as much about it as we did about COVID-19 at the beginning, meaning almost nothing. Worse, it was first documented years ago, in 1897 in Uganda, and the World Health Organization has even classified it as a “neglected” disease.

     Doctors, in West Africa, have been treating patients who have this disease for many years. It is related to leprosy and tuberculosis, which should frighten the hell out of everyone.

     More recently, in 1948, it appeared in the State of Victoria in Australia. No-one knows how it got there. In 2014 doctors reported 65 cases in Victoria. In 2019, the number had risen to 299. Very few people, even locally, seem to have heard of it, and greater world is almost totally oblivious.

     It is not a pleasant, or benign disease. The Buruli ulcer can rapidly destroy skin and soft tissue. It can eat away at a whole limb, if not treated, and the treatment is almost worse than the disease. Specific and strong antibiotics and steroids are required for weeks, even months, and those treatments bring a whole series of issues of their own. Some children have required 20 operations to deal with the ulcer. The physical impacts are significant. The aggressive ulcer can cause disfigurement, requiring serious surgery, and lead to long-term disability. It is literally a flesh-eating disease, and we have “neglected” it for far too long.

     No-one is currently suggesting that it could become a pandemic, but we know so little about it that the possibility is real. I have to wonder how many more potential pandemics are already out there, let alone new ones that might evolve.

     In today’s world, as COVID-19 has hopefully shown us, no country, continent or culture can fight these catastrophes on their own. It takes a global, all inclusive, approach.

     The World Health Organization is the only major global entity that could handle such events, and it needs the full support of all nations, regardless of politics. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but the fate of humankind could depend on it. The probabilities of human annihilation are far greater from a rampant and uncontrollable pandemic than they are from nuclear war.

     The Buruli ulcer the next pandemic? It may currently be an Australian and West African problem right now, but the threat is real and could affect all of us. We must learn more about it, and quickly.

     Time to wake up, yet again!

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    Thanks, Ian. As I sit here drinking my first cup of Nescafé this article has put me off my breakfast. Flesh eating diseases! Yuck!

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