AUSTRALIA is grappling with an explosion of syphilis cases following the easing of lockdown, according to reports.
Described by local health officials in Melbourne as an “epidemic,” there is a growing fear that there could be a 220 percent spike in infections of the sexually transmitted infection.
Doctors were left baffled as the new data compiled by the Department of Health already shows a 45 per cent increase of notified syphilis cases.
Much of the spread is blamed on the easing of lockdown – which is already proving a concern for health officials here in the UK.
Speaking to news.au, Epidemiologist associate professor Eric Chow confirmed that cases of the STI had increased from 950 cases in 2015 to 1375 cases in 2018, adding that the disease is now affecting a broad demographic of the population.
He said: “The epidemic, which was once focused on gay men in inner Melbourne, has now become much more generalised and has spread to the outer suburbs.
“The major concern with the rise in syphilis is among women of reproductive age because we know that syphilis can cause major complications during pregnancy and even result in the death of the child.
“So, we’re urging all women at high risk to get screened during their third trimester in addition to the universal screening during the first.”
The news follows a report from The Sun last year that suggested that syphilis cases are at their highest since World War II.
The bacterial infection, which is passed on through sex, had risen by 165 per cent over the last decade.
Information about syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease.
It starts with an appearance of sores or ulcers, before developing into a rash.
If untreated, it could eventually cause a brain infection, dementia and blindness.
It can be cured with penicillin, but people may not seek treatment because they do not realise they have been infected, as syphilis is often asymptomatic following signs of the initial infection.
Dr Chow said the re-emergence of syphilis among heterosexuals in Victoria meant prevention messaging should be targeted towards them, particularly those residing in the outer suburbs.
Only in January, the region launched a new Sexual Health Network, which is network of bulk-billed GP sexual health clinics aimed at improving access to screening for people in the outer areas of Melbourne.
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