Syphilis Cases Rising in Australia

Despite increased testing for syphilis in Australia, cases of patients acquiring this old-fashioned, sexually-transmitted infection is still rising in the country. According to recent studies, rates of syphilis patients have jumped sharply compared to the data 10 years ago, with more gay men aged between 20 to 30 are becoming infected.

Syphilis, once called "cupid’s disearse", is cause by microorganisms called spirochetes that open a painless lesion on the genitalia. It soon heals but is followed by a period of fever, sore throat, weight loss, and headaches.

Speculations began to float on whether the rise is a reflection of more men being tested for the disease, but recent tests suggest that the infection rate itself is rising. Epidemiologists at MacFarland Burnet Institute of Medical Research and Public Health in Melbourne compared its own infection rates to analyze the trend. They have found, for instance, that between 2002 and 2003, the chance of being tested for the disease during a physical consultation jumped 44%, but the diagnosis rate for syphilis increased by 500% over the same time period. According to researchers, it suggests that testing and treatment alone may not be the only answer to the outbreak.

Despite the alarming numbers, the total number of syphilis infections are still relatively low compared to chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, experts fear that the sharp rise may constitute an emerging epidemic that could potentially climb to levels seen 30 years ago.

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