A thirteen year-old Australian girl is leading the call for more government-funded research into the spread of a horrible flesh-eating disease after a painful infection literally began breaking down the skin in her knee. As the result of her incredibly successful online petition, Mornington Peninsula native Ella Crofts forced the federal Health Minister to concede that “further research” is needed regarding this dangerous epidemic currently plaguing Australia.
Named after the Ugandan village where it was originally discovered; Buruli ulcer is an infectious disease of special interest to zombie studies; particularly in the field of epidemiology, including transmission, outbreak investigation, and human migration.
As a source of necrotizing fasciitis, it is similar to leprosy that rots human flesh, decreases immune system function, and occurs most commonly in the rural sub-Saharan parts of Africa and China. However, Buruli has now become an epidemic in Australia; forcing prominent medical experts to publicly comment on the situation, including microbiologist Tim Stinear.
While Buruli is a rare disease in global terms, we are in the middle of an epidemic on the Mornington Peninsula. A small group of us here in Melbourne are in the forefront internationally of trying to fight this disease, and there is a WHO Collaborating Centre on Mycobacterium ulcerans (the pathogen that causes the disease) based at the Doherty Institute … There has been a substantial expansion in the past 10 years and it’s proliferating. We don’t know precisely how or why it has moved.
Although data collected by the World Health Organization actually show that a majority of cases originate in Africa and China, Paul Johnson of Melbourne’s Austin Hospital continues to claim that it’s a “great mystery” as to why this disease has found its way to Australia.
From the 1995 thriller Outbreak to Max Brooks’ groundbreaking novel World War Z; the hunt for “Patient Zero” is a familiar plot for a number of popular medical dramas and zombie fiction. However, infection sources are a serious threat when it comes to the possible spread of unknown zombie diseases, undead infections, and inevitable future outbreaks.
Hopefully the case of thirteen year-old Ella Crofts will inspire the Australian people to demand accountability from their officials, and motivate the medical community to confront the cause of such a horrible epidemic. Of course, if you’d like to learn more please check out her official petition online, or visit the World Health Organization for details on Buruli ulcer.