A DISEASE that used to kill thousands of Brits each year is on the rise yet again.
The sexually transmitted infection – which is believed to have struck down the likes of Shakespeare – can also lead to severe health issues like brain damage and blindness if left untreated.
According to experts, rates of new cases of syphilis in the US have risen sharply by 26 per cent.
The surge has prompted US health officials to call for new prevention and treatment efforts.
“It is imperative that we work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the US, ” said Doctor Leandro Mena of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a speech Monday at a medical conference on sexually transmitted diseases.
Since the pandemic ended and the world opened up again, cases of the bacterial infection have been increasing all over the globe.
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“It's pretty simple – more sexually transmitted infections occur when people are having more unprotected sex,” said Doctor Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
There may have been a surge in sexual activity as people emerged from Covid-19 lockdowns as "people felt liberated,” Dr Saag added.
Last year, health officials from Ireland raised the alarm and called for "urgent action" after experiencing a severe outbreak of the bug.
Indeed, the STI crisis was already well underway before the pandemic.
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Data from the State of the Nation report from the Terrence Higgins Trust and BASHH revealed that in February 2020, cases of syphilis were up 165 per cent in the last decade.
Cases of gonorrhoea also rose by a staggering 249 per cent within the same time frame.
This comes alongside the international outbreak of the monkeypox virus – which further highlighted the worsening problem with diseases spread mostly through sex.
The latest data on STI cases in the UK, which was meant to be published this month, has been delayed because of the Queen's funeral.
The bacterial infection is typically caught after close contact with an infected sore.
A small, painless sore or ulcer called a chancre will first be spotted, for sufferers of primary syphilis.
Most people only have one sore, but some people have several, and you may also have swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits.
A few weeks after these initial symptoms, those with syphilis may experience…
- A blotchy red rash that can appear anywhere on the body, but often develops on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- Small skin growths (similar to genital warts) – on women these often appear on the vulva and for both men and women they may appear around the anus
- White patches in the mouth
- Flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, headaches, joint pains and a high temperature (fever)
- Swollen glands
- Occasionally, patchy hair loss
Sexually active people are encouraged to take regular STI tests.
If untreated, the infection can have a number of health implications, leading to tertiary syphilis.
- Dementia symptoms
- Loss of co-ordination
- Vision problems or blindness
- Heart problems
Pregnant women who are unaware they have contracted the STI may risk devastating consequences for their unborn baby.
Syphilis can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or serious infection in the newborn (congenital syphilis).
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If you believe you have contracted the infection, it’s advisable to visit your GP as soon as possible.
The quicker syphilis is treated, the easier it is for your body to fight off the contagion.
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