Another Outbreak in Bong Buruli Ulcer

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As Ebola reluctantly makes its exit, a new outbreak known as Buruli Ulcer has emerged in Bong County. 

Making the disclosure last Friday at the regular County Health Team meeting, Dr. Azoakoi, the county’s Health Officer explained that buruli ulcer is a chronic skin and lenient tissue infection that causes weakness and can lead to permanent deformity and disability.  

According to Dr. Azoakoi, children under 15 years are the most susceptible to the disease that leads to the devastation of the skin including the soft tissue with large ulcers on the legs or arms.  The disease is caused by infection with mycobacterium ulcerans, an organism belonging to the family of bacteria that cause tuberculosis and leprosy, he told the gathering.

The buruli ulcer is now prevalent in the Zeanzue Community in Yellequelleh District in Bong County, with more than 25 children already affected since the outbreak some weeks ago, Dr. Azoakoi reported, expressing fear for the lives of numerous other children vulnerable to the disease.

“Let me make this vivid to you: patients who are treated initially suffer long-term functional disability,” Dr. Azoakoi told the gathering.

Buruli ulcer is known in Liberian parlance as “be serious” because it is very stubborn to heal and therefore requires meticulous treatment. Therefore, to overcome the skin disease, one must “be serious” about it.

He mentioned that if nothing is done to contain the disease, the likelihood of many children in the community being direct victims is eminent.

According to him, some of the children of one parent have refused to eat with their siblings who are suffering from the disease for fear of also becoming infected.

Commenting on the signs and symptoms, the County Health Officer explained that the disease starts as a painless swelling of the legs, arms or face and without treatment within four weeks, the disease undermines the bone, causing deformities.

The disease can be treated if the patient is detected early.

Dr. Azoakoi recommended that health education at the village and community levels, training of health workers and volunteers, strengthening of health facilities with essential drugs and equipment will help to prevent the further spread of the disease.

“Since there is no adequate information of how the buruli ulcer or tropical ulcer is communicated, preventive actions cannot be applied but it is vital to minimize the suffering and disabilities of the children,” the Health Officer advised.

He said the actual cause of the ulcer has not been established, either by medical institutions in the county or the County Health Team.  He did tell the Daily Observer, however, that there has been no report of death from the buruli ulcer since the outbreak began some weeks ago.

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