Dec 17
Syphilis on the increase

NSW Health is encouraging sexually active people to see their doctor for a sexual health checkup following a major increase in infectious syphilis in Mildura in Victoria, which borders Far West Local Health District. 

Victoria have reported 22 cases of infectious syphilis in Mildura between January and early November 2019, compared to 11 cases at the same time in 2018. Of those 22 cases, 15 were in women – a higher proportion than expected.

Western NSW Local Health District Sexual Health Nurse, Kim Grant, is encouraging people to talk to their GP or sexual health service, and to get tested and seek treatment as needed.

“In Western NSW LHD, there were six notifications of infectious syphilis to the end of November 2019, which is stable compared to eight notifications in the whole of 2018 and eleven notifications in 2017. However, in light of the recent increases in Mildura and the easy spread of syphilis though unprotected sex, there is a real risk of syphilis affecting an increasing number of people here if we are not careful.”

Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) that is easily curable. Similar to other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, people with syphilis do not always have symptoms. Therefore, regular STI check-ups are needed to avoid passing the infection on to other people and to avoid long-term health consequences. 

“Although men continue to account for the majority of syphilis infections in NSW, the number of cases in women has risen considerably.” 

Testing is particularly important early in pregnancy, as pregnant women with untreated syphilis can pass the infection on to their unborn baby, which drastically increases the risk of stillbirth, premature birth, and life-long disability. 

Confidential STI testing is available from your GP or local sexual health clinic. 

For sexual health support and information, call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 (Mon - Fri 9am-5.30pm), go to https://www.shil.nsw.gov.au, or visit NSW Health’s Play Safe website at https://playsafe.health.nsw.gov.au