Do you believe that syphilis, the dreaded sexually transmitted infection (STI) is not a threat any longer? If the answer is yes, then you are thoroughly mistaken. Chris Steward, Deputy Director of the State Health Department at Sedgwick County in Kansas, United States says that 92 positive cases of syphilis were reported in 2021 unlike a meager four cases in 2013 and 42 in 2017. One of the reasons cited by her for the spurt in cases is the lack of access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic times.
Information On Recent Advances In Sexually Transmitted Disease
Steward went on to add that there were social factors due to which people could not get transportation to healthcare. They did not have the means for prescriptions and thus were clueless about where to go. She was quick to add that risky behaviors such as unprotected sex also contributed to the spike in cases. Steward further said that Sedgwick County has taken several initiatives to stop the spread of syphilis.
This involves programs such as educating patients and providing testing. Steward also expressed utmost concern about babies being born with syphilis. She explained that they are most concerned about the fact that the situation can lead to a low birth rate and defects. According to Steward, though babies may still be born, there may be cases of babies dying before they are born and there are also chances of abnormalities.
Brett Hogan, Executive Director at Positive Directions Inc., a non-profit organization in Wichita, Kansas said that specific types of cases have been reported at his facility also. He attributed the unprecedented rise in syphilis cases to an increased use of injection drugs as well as fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid.
According to him, since syphilis can pass through the blood, they have been witnessing an enormous rise in the number of cases. Hogan further opined that syphilis can easily be misdiagnosed by doctors and if left untreated, the STI can create severe damage. He explained that syphilis gets into one’s spinal cord. Subsequently, the spinal system moves itself up into the brain and It ultimately leads to the growing and multiplying of a lot of bacteria in the system.
In other parts of the US also, syphilis has resurfaced. With cases spinking 32% between 2020 and 2021, the country has witnessed the largest increase in cases in the last 70 years. There has also been a spike in Congenital syphilis – a case of a mother passing the disease to her child during pregnancy.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), 7.1 million new cases of syphilis were reported globally in 2020. Apart from the US, in several other countries also syphilis has made a comeback. The surge in cases in Australia was a massive 90% from 2015 to 2020. In Canada, it was even worse with a rise of 389% in the cases of infectious syphilis from 2011 to 2019. When it comes to the United Kingdom, there was a spike of 8.4% in syphilis numbers between 2020 and 2021.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an alarming rise in newborn syphilis cases which can be life-threatening. There has been a tenfold increase in the last decade and nearly 32% in one year. In 2022 alone, 51 cases of congenital syphilis ended in infant deaths, and the number was 231 in stillbirths. However, the CDC believes that 90% of those cases could have been avoided if they had been provided with timely testing and treatment during pregnancy.
The problem with syphilis is that several people do not have symptoms or they fail to notice them. The first stage, i.e. Primary syphilis lasts nearly 21 days and there may be symptoms such as a round, generally hard sore (chancre) appearing on the genitals, anus, or other parts and it will be painless.
Syphilis is generally transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex and also through blood transfusion. The best way to prevent this STI is by using condoms correctly and consistently during sex.
Last but not least, the positive aspect of syphilis is that the disease is treatable and curable. Thus, those who suspect to be infected with syphilis should speak to their healthcare provider.