Syphilis disease is rapidly becoming a growing trend in Europe.
Between 2014 and 2015, there has been a 22% increase in the number of people treated for syphilis in Ireland.
‘Syphilis disease’ has become a popular search term on Google, reflecting the growing concern people have about this potentially deadly, yet perplexing disease.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said four out of five cases in Ireland were reported among men who have sex with other men. It stated that there were 249 cases of early infectious syphilis last year, only 10 of which were women and more than half were people below the age of 34.
- What Is Syphilis?
- Syphilis Rates Aren’t Just Climbing In Ireland
- What Can We Do To Prevent ‘Syphilis Disease’?
What Is Syphilis?
Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum. If diagnosed early, it can be easily treated and cured with a single or short course of penicillin injections.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, syphilis can eventually cause damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. In extreme cases it can cause difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, mental illness, and even death.
Syphilis Rates Aren’t Just Climbing In Ireland
This is just part of a larger trend across Europe in recent years. Since 2012, syphilis disease diagnoses in England have risen by 76% (from 3,001 to 5,288 in 2015).
Interestingly, the highest infection rates across Europe were reported in Malta (11.5 cases per 100,000), Lithuania (8.7), Iceland (7.7), and Spain (7.7), according to the ECDC’s data from 29 member nations of the European Union.
Overall, European men were a lot more likely to catch the sexually transmitted infection (8.3 cases per 100,000) than women (1.3 cases per 100,000). Ratios of male-to-female cases above 10 to 1 were reported by France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
Genevieve Edwards, director of policy at Marie Stopes UK said: ‘These statistics should set alarm bells ringing about the availability of sexual health services for young people and men who have sex with men.
What Can We Do To Prevent ‘Syphilis Disease’?
“Safer sex practices and regular testing are key to prevention.” the HPSC said.
It's important to know that the most common way people can contract syphilis is via oral sex. This is not commonly known, but a large number of syphilis cases arise from unprotected oral sex, as people often forfeit a condom during foreplay.
The climbing syphilis rates prove that people won’t take the necessary precautions on their own. Promoting sexual health awareness is key to reversing this trend.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley