Get tested: Increase in syphilis cases cause for concern

A sharp rise in syphilis cases across the Northern Rivers has prompted health authorities to advise people to get tested for the disease.

The increase in syphilis cases was far higher than the five-year average.

North Coast Population and Public Health director Dr Valerie Delpech said since 2020, infectious syphilis cases increased each year with 29 cases in 2020, 41 cases in 2021 and 85 in 2022.

“This increase reflects an unprecedented number of cases, especially among young heterosexuals and those who engage in casual unprotected sex,” Dr Delpech said.

“Syphilis does not always present symptoms. We suspect there are many other cases of infectious syphilis in the community that are undiagnosed, so early testing and treatment is key to helping us control this outbreak.

“We are encouraging all sexually active people, particularly those who have multiple sexual partners or unprotected casual sex, to talk to their GP or visit their Sexual Health Service to be tested, even if they are not experiencing symptoms.”

For those with symptoms, the first sign of syphilis is the appearance of sores or ulcers at the site of the infection.

Syphilis can be transmitted by unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, as well as through kissing and close physical contact.

During pregnancy it can be transmitted from a mother to her unborn baby, leading to stillbirth or permanent disability of the baby.

Though syphilis can cause serious health problems, it is easily tested and cured.

Confidential testing for and treatment of sexually transmissible infections is free of charge through your GP, Aboriginal Medical Service or local Sexual Health Clinics at Lismore.

For sexual health support and information, call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 (weekdays 9am to 5.30pm), go to here or visit NSW Health’s Play Safe website.

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