Buruli Ulcer is a little known disease in Ghana, even though it is highly prevalent in West Africa. Cases have also been found in over 30 countries, including Australia.
It starts with a bump on the skin, then swells and if untreated, finally bursts and eats away at the flesh.
The disease often goes untreated in Ghana as there are only six buruli ulcer wards for a population of 24 million people. Often people are admitted at a late stage, which can mean skin grafts and even amputation.
In this film we went to a clinic on the outskirts of the capital Accra which specialises in this little known disease. Often it goes untreated. But for those who develop a buruli ulcer, their lives are turned upside down. If caught early, buruli ulcers can easily be treated with antibiotics. But if left, the consequences can be horrific.
Buruli ulcers are know as the “mysterious disease”. How they are caught or transmitted is not clear. Once they burst they eat away the flesh. It can mean a long time in hospital and possibly skin grafts. With so few clinics and trained experts, it’s often not diagnosed. People find out about the clinic by word of mouth. Little is know about buruli ulcers, even among health workers. But the clinic is still over-stretched.
Exact figures are hard to establish, but according to the World Health Organisation the buruli ulcer cases are increasing in several African countries including Uganda, Congo and Sudan.
IMPOSSIBLE TO PREVENT:
There is also an economic impact with patients having to spend time away from work. Some have had to spend months in hospital, even a year.
Catching a buruli ulcer early costs the health service in Ghana around 20-50 dollars. Treating an ulcer later can cost thousands. And that will be critical. As long as the cause of buruli ulcers remains unknown, they will be almost impossible to prevent.