Syphilis: How deadly disease has spread in Australia

Source: BBC News, Sydney, By Frances Mao

Less than a decade ago, doctors in Australia believed they were close to eliminating syphilis from remote indigenous communities - the centre of national efforts to fight the disease.

Since then, however, the sexually transmitted infection has grown into an outbreak spanning three states and a territory.

Doctors say six babies have died from congenital syphilis since 2011.

During the same period, they say the outbreak overwhelmingly affecting indigenous Australians has risen from about 120 people to more than 2,100.

Health experts have characterised it as a crisis, saying the nation faces a "big task" to bring the problem under control.

How did this happen?

The majority of syphilis sufferers in Australia are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in regional areas in the nation's north and centre, doctors say.

Indigenous health experts, including Associate Prof James Ward, issued a call in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2011 to try to end syphilis in communities where it was a problem.

But Associate Prof Ward says it has instead "spiralled out of control", spreading from one Queensland community to elsewhere in the state, as well as to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

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Syphilis shame needs to be eradicated too

Source: National News, © 4CA Cairns – 12 July 2018

Erasing a syphilis epidemic sweeping indigenous communities will not only require the distribution of rapid test kits but also ending the shame associated with the disease, a leading sexual health physician says.

The federal government will distribute on Monday, as part of an $8.8 million plan to tackle the outbreak, more than 60,000 rapid test kits across Townsville, Cairns and Darwin.

Cairns Sexual Health Service physician Dr Darren Russell, who is also an associate professor at James Cook University, says the kits were "long overdue" but only part of the solution.

Since 2011, more than 1000 cases had been recorded in north Queensland including 11 babies with congenital syphilis of which six have died.

"We've had an epidemic in Queensland … and that has spread across to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and more recently South Australia," he said.

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Syphilis has returned to Queensland in epidemic proportions, and it's killing babies

Source: ABC News – 11 July 2018
A disease that once sent kings mad is now killing babies in Queensland

A 'medieval' disease infamous for devastating kings has returned in epidemic proportions in Queensland, and killed six babies in as many years, despite there being a cheap and effective cure.

In the last six years, six babies have died in the state from syphilis — a sexually transmitted disease that was nearly eradicated in the early 2000s.

In 2008, two cases were diagnosed in Queensland, and in the decade since, more than 1,100 other cases have been recorded in the north of the state, with about 200 new presentations each year.

The numbers continue to grow, despite penicillin being a cheap and effective cure.

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