Wednesday 2 December, 2020

Syphilis cases on the increase

Syphilis cases are on the increase.

In New Hampshire, USA, health officials said the state is experiencing an outbreak of syphilis, with the number of reported cases so far for 2017, about double that of previous years.

From January to May, 42 cases of syphilis were identified. That's an increase compared with the past five years when an average of 20 cases was reported during those months.

Health officials say between 2012 and 2016, there were on average about 80 total cases per year of the disease reported in New Hampshire, with 2016 having the highest number of 104 cases reported for the entire year.

They say the outbreak in New Hampshire is consistent with national trends.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in 2000 and 2001, the national rate of reported primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis cases was 2.1 cases per 100,000 population, the lowest rate since reporting began in 1941.

“However, the P&S syphilis rate has increased almost every year since 2000–2001. In 2015, a total of 23,872 P&S syphilis cases were reported. During 2014–2015, the national P&S syphilis rate increased 19.0 percent to 7.5 cases per 100,000 population, the highest rate reported since 1994,” the CDC said.

The CDC said during 2000–2015, the rise in the rate of reported P&S syphilis was primarily attributable to increased cases among men and, specifically, among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (collectively referred to as MSM).

However, during 2013–2015, the rate increased both among men and women. During 2014–2015, the rate increased 18.1 percent among men and 27.3 percent among women.

The CDC said these increases among women are of particular concern because congenital syphilis cases tend to increase as the rate of P&S syphilis among women increases.

“Nationally, P&S syphilis rates increased in every age group among those aged 15–64 years and in every race/ethnicity group except for American Indians/Alaska Natives during 2014–2015. As in recent years, MSM accounted for the majority of reported P&S syphilis cases in 2015. Nationally, the highest rates of P&S syphilis in 2015 were observed among men aged 25–29 years and 20–24 years, among men in the West and in the South, and among Black men,” the CDC said.

In England, the number of cases of syphilis has reached the highest level since 1949, figures show. Cases of the infection have almost doubled since 2012, according to data from Public Health England (PHE).

In 2016 there were 5,920 syphilis diagnoses, a 12 percent increase on the previous year’s figure (5,281) and a 97 percent rise on 2012 (3,001).

PHE said the cases were mostly associated with transmission in gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men.

PHE said the impact of STIs remained greatest in heterosexuals aged 15-24, black ethnic minorities and men who have sex with men.

In the Caribbean, Barbados health authorities have also reported an outbreak of syphilis on the island.

A just-completed report analysed trends in new cases over a four-year period between 2011 and 2014, according to recent media reports. 

According to Anton Best, a Senior Medical Officer, the study revealed a significant increase in the number of syphilis cases between 2011 and 2013. Subsequently, the outbreak stabilised in 2014 and 2015, he said.

“The majority of cases occurred in men (72 percent). Nearly three-quarters of cases occurred in persons between the ages of 15 and 49 years, with the average age of a syphilis case being 34 years,”  he said.

A new report by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) showed an increase in congenital syphilis, that is, transmission from mother to child, in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the report on the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis in the Americas: Update 2016, The report indicates that new cases of congenital syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean have doubled since 2010, when countries and territories reported 10,850 cases, showing a steady increase since then. By 2015, an estimated 22,400 children were born with syphilis.

In 2015, 83 percent of pregnant women in prenatal care were tested for syphilis and 84 percent of those positive, received treatment, rates that have remained stable for five years. Currently, the number of children born with congenital syphilis in the region (170 per 100,000 live births) triples the goal of elimination (50 per 100,000).

"Expanding rapid diagnostic tests and initiating treatment at the same visit, as well as engaging sexual partners of pregnant women diagnosed with syphilis to know their status and treat them, is crucial to avoid reinfection during pregnancy and end this disease by 2030”, said Massimo Ghidinelli, head of the PAHO HIV, STI and Viral Hepatitis Unit.

Syphilis Facts

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). There are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.

How is Syphilis spread?

You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the genitals, on the lips or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.

Can Syphilis be cured?

Yes, syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. However, treatment might not undo any damage that the infection has already done.

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