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Syphilis cases continue to increase

24 May 2019

As syphilis cases rise nationwide, MidCentral DHB’s Public Health Team is emphasising the need for people in the community to get tested.

Diagnosed cases of syphilis have doubled over the past two years to more than 500 cases a year. There have been 10 cases in the MidCentral DHB area so far in 2019.

MidCentral DHB Sexual Health Physician Dr Anne Robertson said people of all ages who are sexually active should consider getting tested.

“In particular, men who have sex with other men are a high-risk group. There are also increasing numbers of women being infected. Pregnant women who are infected run the risk of harm to the unborn baby.”

Dr Robertston said the figures do not reveal the full picture, as syphilis is often misdiagnosed. In addition, as initial symptoms disappear quickly, many people fail to seek help.

“Syphilis can cause serious health complications and can even be fatal if left untreated,” Dr Robertson said.

“Using condoms can help reduce the number of cases of syphilis. Many infections, however, are spread through oral sex where no protection has been used.”

Symptoms of syphilis includes sores or ulcers at the site of infection (genitals, anus or mouth), rashes on feet and hands, swollen lymph glands, fever, hair loss, muscle and joint aches, headaches, tiredness, and warty growths in skin folds.

Testing is done via a blood test, which is free through MidCentral DHB’s Sexual Health Service at Palmerston North Hospital, the Youth One Stop Shop or at a General Practice team. Pregnant women can contact their midwife.

Next week, as part of its campaign to increase testing, MidCentral DHB’s Sexual Health Service is offering walk-in clinics from Monday to Friday mornings from 10am to 12 noon (or phone 0800 808 602 or 06 350 8602 for a phone consultation).

More information can be found on the MidCentral DHB and Ministry of Health websites.


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