2 May 2018

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NEWS DESK

Experts unite in plan to find ulcer cause SCIENTISTS and health experts have joined forces in the battle to stop the spread of the debilitating Buruli ulcer. The federal government last week announced a $1.5 million two-year research study into ways of eradicating the fast spreading disease – which is especially prevalent on the Mornington Peninsula. Of the 275 infections recorded across Victoria last year, and the 35 reported so far this year, more than 80 per cent have occurred on the peninsula, according to study leader Professor Tim Stinear, from the University of Melbourne. Mosquitoes are suspected as being the key factor in the spread of the ulcer-causing bacteria – Mycobacterium ulcerans – possibly first to possums and then to humans. However, it is not understood why

some areas are vulnerable to the disease and others are not. “Speed is of the essence in finding way to stop its spread,” said Professor Stinear,a microbiologist. Ten different research groups, including state health department staff and Mornington Peninsula Shire health officers, will attempt to find out which mosquito species is responsible and then work out ways to cull it by concentrating on its breeding habits. This could take the form of “fogging”, which involves mist spraying of foliage, placing pesticide tablets in lakes or ponds to kill larvae, or spraying inside drains or pipes. Environmental health officers may also go door-to-door to advise residents on how to eradicate mosquito-

breeding areas, such as pets’ water bowls. “There is no one solution at this stage,” Professor Stinear said. “Everything is on the table. “We hope to cover every angle and come up with the right result. “The government has said ‘Yes, you have the money’, so we will start next month.” Flinders MP and Health Minister Greg Hunt said the world-first research was “vital in getting to the bottom of this emerging health challenge”. “This is a horrible and painful medical condition. The project will provide much-needed evidence which will inform public health policies to control this emerging disease.” Stephen Taylor

Scratch before ulcer Seaford resident Rob Bowers who was diagnosed as having a Buruli ulcer after a bit of metal scratched what appeared to be a mosquito bite near his right ankle. “I’d been bitten by mosquitoes near the Powlett River [Bass Coast] and a March fly at Gunnamatta. While at work I dropped a bit of sheet metal, which scratched me and opened it up,” he said. A keen surfer, Mr Bowers said the collar on his leg rope also aggravated the wound, which began to grow in size. “It didn’t really bother me but it was as big as a 20 cent coin and wasn’t healing.” A doctor who ruled out a Buruli (or Bairnsdale) ulcer, instead diagnosing the more common bacterial skin infection, cellulitis. However, Mr Bowers’ mother Sue, a nurse who has seen many patients with buruli ulcers, arranged for him to visit the Mt Martha clinic where she works. A doctor there took a swab and within a week confirmed his wound was a Buruli ulcer and booked an appointment for him at Frankston Hospital. The hospital’s infectious diseases officer agreed it was a Buruli ulcer and Mr Bowers is now undergoing a 12-week course of antibiotics. He will go back to the hospital in mid-May for a blood test to see if the antibiotics are working or whether he will need surgery. “I can go in the water [to surf] but must avoid stagnant water,” Mr Bowers said.

Renters’ rights fight

Community spirit: Sammar Bassal, left, Kingston mayor Steve Staikos, Laura Vandersluys and Lizzie Honeybone. Picture: Supplied

Young citizens top of their game KINGSTON’S Young Citizen of the Year Awards has seen a trio of young achievers recognised for community engagement in the municipality. Laura Vandersluys, 25, deputy chair of the Victorian Youth Congress, was named 2018 Young Citizen of the Year. She works at the Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network and is passionate about highlighting youth unemployment challenges and works with employers to give youth a chance. The awards are open to young people aged 12-25 with a strong connection to Kingston. “We were faced with the difficult task of choosing just

one winner, but all of our finalists are remarkable young people making a positive difference in their local community,” Kingston mayor Cr Steve Staikos said. Working with the Foundation for Young Australians, Laura guided the development of a VCAL career-based toolkit which is now being used by 200-plus schools and more than 7100 students. The two finalists were Elizabeth “Lizzie” Honeybone, 17, unit chair of the 4th Mordialloc Sea Scouts and former Science and STEM domain leader at Mentone Girls Secondary College and Sammar Bassal, 22, a dedicated member of two Kingston Youth Services committees with a flair for graphics software teaching and graphic design.

KINGSTON Council is joining a campaign calling on the state government to give renters “greater stability and protection”. Mayor Cr Steve Staikos said may renters face “unfair treatment” from landlords and insecure short-term leases. “More than 12,600 households in Kingston are rental households with 800 of them experiencing extreme rental stress with more than 50 per cent of their income spent on rent,” Cr Staikos said. “Housing affordability in Kingston is set to worsen and there is a real shortage of affordable homes in the area.” Councillors have unanimously agreed to back Tenants Victoria’s “Make Renting Fair” campaign, supported by more than 60 community groups and councils across the state. “The Victorian government is currently reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act, which controls safety, security and privacy for 1.2 million people across the state,” Cr Staikos said. “We will be writing to the Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz urging her to make rental laws fairer by scrapping ‘no reason’ eviction notices, introducing minimum property standards, and a number of other measures. “Unfortunately, those who are hit hardest by unfair rental laws are often those who are already facing disadvantage, including those who have experienced homelessness, people living with mental illness or a disability, older people and lowincome households.”

Club building is go A DESIGN to replace the ageing Edithvale Life Saving Club has finally been accepted by a state government department after initial plans were knocked back for not complying with environmental regulations. The Department of Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) has approved new plans for a new building in the wake of a rejection of the first proposal last year (“Life saving club redesigned for coast”, The News 6/12/17). Kingston mayor Cr Steve Staikos said council is “thrilled” at the thumbs up for the latest design. “The current building has served the community well but is ageing and needs replacing,” Cr Staikos said. “Every summer more than 20,000 visitors flock to Edithvale beach and it’s vital that the Life Saving Club has the facilities it needs to ensure the public’s safety in the water.” The state government is contributing $1.5 million of tax payers’ cash to the rebuild of the Edithvale Life Saving Club building and council is pitching in $2.72 million of ratepayers’ money. A new building was originally budgeted at $3.4 million but has now risen to about $4.2 million. The first design was rejected by the DELWP for not meeting Coastal Management Act regulations.

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Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News 2 May 2018

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