Mystery bug spreads

Cases of flesh-eating ulcer soar across the Peninsula

CASES of a mysterious flesh-eating bug continue to soar across the Peninsula.

It comes as an Olympic medallist shared his harrowing story to highlight the need for research into the Buruli Ulcer — commonly known as the Bairnsdale Ulcer.

Neil Hewitt, 80, of Sorrento, pleaded with a surgeon to amputate his right arm due to horrific pain caused by the bug. Mr Hewitt spent more than three months in hospital and underwent 15 operations after the bug caused the flesh on his arm to “rot away”. “It ate the flesh away. It’s changed my life,” he said. “I am shocked at how it’s got away and they still don’t know how it is transferred.” Mr Hewitt has been left with extensive scarring on his arm and limited movement in his right fingers.

He believes stress due to his 2011 illness caused a recurrence of his wife Wendy’s cancer and ultimately led to her death in 2016.

Mr Hewitt — who was part of the bronze medal-winning Australian men’s eight rowing team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics — said more research into the ulcer was essential.

The latest State Government data shows that reports of the bug are spiralling across the region.

There have been 131 cases of the ulcer in the Peninsula as of October 22, compared to 78 cases at the same time last year.

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council environment protection manager John Rankine said investigations into how the ulcer was spread were ongoing.

The council is working with the Department of Health and Human Services, University of Melbourne and Barwon Health on the intervention study ‘Controlling Buruli ulcer in Victoria’.

The Liberal Party last week pledged — if elected at November’s state election — it would commit $1 million to improve education and awareness of rare diseases.

Nepean Liberal candidate Russell Joseph said too many Peninsula families had been affected by the ulcer.