In 2017, there were about 1,340 syphilis cases in Victoria, which is a 41 percent increase from two years earlier and sets a record high.
Congenital syphilis is what a child is diagnosed with after the infection spread from the mother to the baby. It can cause major birth defects as well as fetal death, which was recorded last year.
A Victoria state health official said it’s imperative to screen at-risk groups, conduct antenatal screening and start infected persons and their partners on treatments to prevent further syphilis infections.
While most of the cases are seen in men, with nearly three-quarters reporting they had male sexual partners who had the infection. According to officials, a person with syphilis is more likely to be diagnosed with HIV.
Health.vic suggests that the following demographics be tested
Any pregnant women who has a positive syphilis test should see a specialist to start immediate treatment. Patients’ sexual partners will also need to be tested to confirm their diagnosis and get treatment.
When discovered early enough, a round of antibiotics can treat the condition. The CDC said syphilis spreads through contact of a syphilis sore during oral, anal or vaginal sex. Sexually active people are urged to use condoms to protect themselves against syphilis and other STDs.
According to Australian health officials, the number of gonorrhea cases increased as well – from 62 to 101 infections. In 2016, there were 23,800 new gonorrhea cases with three-quarters of those seen in men. Experts cannot explain why the rise but believe changes in screening and treatment practices, sexual behavior changes and various strains are the reasons for it.
The rise in STIs are not just limited to Australia. There are also syphilis cases occurring in England well, with its highest rates since 1949. In the U.S., there were over two million new cases of chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea in 2016.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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