Buruli ulcer, yaws infections high among children
A child with a collapsed nose as a result of yaws.

 Buruli ulcer, yaws infections high among children

Children below 15 years are mostly affected by Buruli ulcer and yaws.

This is because they are very active and play a lot, therefore, their skin easily gets broken, which opens them up to infections particularly when they get into contact with Buruli ulcer patients and germs that cause yaws.


In an interview, the Programme Manager of the National Buruli Ulcer Control and Yaws Eradication Programme (NBUCYEP), Dr Nana Konama Kotey said Buruli ulcer and yaws cases recorded in the country are high among children below 15.

“Children play a lot and touch one another and once there is a break in the skin, an infected person can easily transmit the disease to them,” she added.

She, therefore, advised children to inform their parents whenever they noticed that their skin was broken after playing for the wound to be treated immediately to prevent such conditions.

What are Buruli ulcer and yaws diseases?

 Yaws and Buruli ulcer are among the 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that had been earmarked for control and eradication by the World Health Organisation. Both diseases affect mainly the skin and can also affect bones, joints and cartilages. They are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions as well as in rural and peri-urban areas with poor sanitary conditions.

Patients who do not seek early treatment often suffer long-term functional disabilities. For this reason, early case detection and diagnosis are important to reduce morbidity and prevent disability.

Yaws is transmitted through skin contact. It is a multi-stage disease classified into early yaws and late yaws. Early yaws cases are infectious but late yaws cases are not. The early phase of yaws may present with pains in the bones and joints. Lesions ( damage to the skin or part of the body caused by injury or illness) include papillomas (small lump that grows on the skin), ulcers, papules, macules, palmar/planter lesions, as well as bone/joint swellings and pains. Yaws can later result in the collapse of the nose and the bending of the facial bone and long bones of the limbs.

Buruli ulcer may start as a non-ulcerative lesion, such as a painless swelling (nodule), a large painless area of induration (plaque) or a diffused painless swelling of the legs, arms or face (oedema). The disease starts with no pain or fever. When there is pain or fever, it is likely to suggest a super-imposed bacterial infection. An underlying bone may also occasionally be affected, leading to deformities.


Dr Kotey said aside from the physical disabilities, the two conditions leave permanent scars on children and they are often stigmatised and marginalised.

She said there had been occasions when children suffering from the two conditions had attempted to socialise with people, however, they ended up being turned away subtly because of their conditions.

“ It affects them psychologically especially then they have to live with it for the rest of their lives,” she stated.

She said some children with these conditions dropped out of school because they did not want to attend school and be ridiculed or stigmatised.


Touching on programmes the NBUCYEP had put in place to check the spread of the conditions in children, Dr Kotey said as part of their case studies in the communities visited, the NBUCYEP had been visiting schools to educate learners and also screen them for the conditions.

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