Wellington Scoop

Syphilis rates in Wellington at highest-ever level

Press Release – Family Planning NZ
New Zealand is in the midst of a syphilis outbreak. Family Planning National Medical Advisor Beth Messenger explains what we all need to know about syphilis.

Rates of syphilis are at their highest ever in Auckland and Wellington – worse than during the 1800s. In clinics around the country we are seeing more and more cases of this once quite rare infection.

The number of people with syphilis in New Zealand has more than doubled since 2015 to 470 cases in 2017, the Ministry of Health reports.

Syphilis cases in New Zealand have been increasing since 2012, following a wider global trend seen in Australia, the UK and the US.

Women aged 20-39 have seen the highest number of cases in 2017.

It is important that everyone understands what this infection is, how it can be prevented, and how it can be treated. It is vital that we stop the spread of syphilis now.

Syphilis is a serious infection and it is highly contagious. It usually begins as an ulcer somewhere on the skin or on the lining of the genital area. Although syphilis is spread through these lesions, most go unrecognised. Usually people aren’t aware that they have syphilis so they unknowingly pass it on through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sexual activity.

In its late stages, syphilis can cause damage to the heart, brain and spinal cord. Paralysis, blindness, dementia, arthritis, deafness, impotence, and death are the outcomes of long-term undiagnosed and untreated syphilis. If you’re pregnant and you have syphilis and it’s not detected during antenatal care, you can pass it on to your unborn children, causing stillbirth or serious complications.

If you have syphilis you may have no symptoms but if you do have signs the first one will likely be a painless ulcer called a chancre, usually on your genitals or anus. Because it’s painless, you might not notice it – or you might think it’s nothing to worry about.

Syphilis has four stages – At the Primary stage, you’ll start with a single painless chancre but there may be multiple lesions. In the secondary stage, you’ll get a rash, usually on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. Other symptoms may include fever, sore throat, weight loss, hair loss, and headache.

In latent syphilis, which can last for years, there are few or no symptoms. In tertiary syphilis, there are gummas (soft non-cancerous growths), neurological, or heart symptoms.

Syphilis can be treated at every stage with antibiotics. But to stop the spread, you need to tell your sexual partners so they can be treated.

You can prevent contracted syphilis by always using condoms for all sexual activity including oral sex. Syphilis can also spread by close contact and it can be spread from mother to pēpe through the placenta during pregnancy so diagnosis and knowing the risks is really important. You will be tested or syphilis if you are pregnant and you will need a repeat test if you have a change of partner during your pregnancy

You can have an STI test any time if you just want to look after yourself and your partner or partners, but you should have one at the following times:

· You and a new partner are beginning a sexual relationship.

· You have had unprotected sex.

· You think you may have an STI.

· A condom broke.

· You are pregnant.

· You have symptoms or just feel something is not right.

· You have had sex—anal or vaginal—with an HIV-positive partner

· You have injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with others.

· You have exchanged sex for drugs or money.

· You have had sex with someone who could answer “yes” to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don’t know.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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