Country Sees Rise In Syphilis Cases Including Congenital Syphilis

Country Sees Rise In Syphilis Cases Including Congenital Syphilis

New Zealand is in the midst of syphilis crisis, and the disease has turned deadly in some cases. It’s because of these deaths that the crisis is hitting home.

What Is Syphilis?

It’s an infection that originates as an ulcer somewhere on the body such as the genital region. Untreated syphilis can lead to heart, spinal cord or brain damage. For those who think, no big deal – well, it really is!

Syphilis is extremely harmful to everybody including pregnant women who have undetected syphilis. The disease can spread to the unborn child, leading to major complications and even stillbirths.

How Is Syphilis Spread?

The infection is spread through unprotected sex – oral, anal and vaginal – with an infected partner. If having sex with an infected partner or with someone unknown, it’s imperative to use condoms. It can also be spread by getting close to someone with active sores. Again, a pregnant woman can spread it to her unborn child.

What Does Syphilis Look Like?

In the first stage, an infected person will get a painless ulcer known as chancre, typically on the vagina, anus, penis and balls. Since it is painless, most people don’t typically notice or think there’s nothing to be concerned with. However, the second stage can lead to rashes, usually on your hands and feet. You may also experience other symptoms like headaches, hair loss, weight loss, sore throat and fever. In the third (latent) stage, it can lead to little or no symptoms. In the final stage, it can cause heart problems, neurological problems and soft, non-cancerous growths.

Syphilis is treatable at every stage.

How Is Syphilis Treated?

With a course of antibiotics, you can treat your condition. However, to stop spreading it, you must inform all your partners to have them tested. Sexual activity should wait until the treatment is over.

Who Should Be Concerned About Syphilis?

Everybody should be concerned about this disease, as it can lead to unwarranted infant deaths and unnecessary spread of the infection. If a woman is pregnant, she should be tested for the disease. Any person who is sexually active and has not used a condom is also encouraged to get tested.

With a simple blood test, a person can learn if they have the disease and then be prescribed antibiotics.

How Is Syphilis Prevented?

The best thing people can do to protect themselves in to use condoms any time they have sex. However, it’s also important to consider the bigger picture such as why there is a syphilis outbreak. What kind of impact is the funding cuts having on sexual health services across the nation and world?

Maternity wards are short-staffed, which means many women have no material care and are coming to hospitals to deliver babies without seeing a midwife their entire pregnancy.

According to Waikato DHB’s Hamilton Sexual Health Clinical Director Dr. Jane Morgan, it’s frightening the number of congenital syphilis cases there are in New Zealand.

She said the World Health Organization awarded Cuba with their ability to eliminate congenital syphilis while New Zealand seems to be reintroducing it. She said it’s heartbreaking and difficult to understand why it’s happening.

Mark Riegel, MD

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