Current Affairs
Persons cured of syphilis can still become infected again

Loose sexual behaviour is leading to the spread of more sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis. This bacteria has spread at a fast rate in Malta in recent years, so much so that Malta has been classified as having the second highest rate of this disease in Europe, and reported cases have more than doubled in seven years.

83 cases of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, were reported in Malta last year, and those affected were persons in the 30 to 39 age group.

According to the European Agency for Disease Control, ECDC,Europee is experiencing a substantial increase in the numbers of this disease, with Iceland occupying top placing followed by Malta. In 2017 the number of persons infected with this bacteria stood at 62, and nearly forty cases (39) have been reported in the first five months of this year.

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci explained that syphilis mainly affects persons having sexual contact with more than one person, and very often without using any form of protection. After the symptoms start to appear, the syphilis is confirmed through a blood test.

“You have a number of phases. In the primary phase sores appear in the genital area. In  the second phase, a rash appears on the palms of the hand and even on the feet, and this can spread to the rest of the body. This is followed by a dormant phase during which there are no more symptoms. After a number of years, however, if this is not treated, it can proceed to the third phase when the infection attacks the whole body, especially the heart, the brain and the nerves, and this can lead to grave complications which can also be fatal.”

Professor Gauci explained that the increase in cases of sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis reflects the loose sexual behaviour of persons who do not even use contraceptives.

“When one uses a condom, one is avoiding many infectious diseases. We are also coming across situations involving what is known as group sex or camp sex, situations with a higher risk where a person will have contact with more than one other person, resulting in the risk being much higher.”

Professor Gauci pointed out that both Maltese and foreigners have been infected with syphilis, which can be treated with antibiotics, making it clear, however, that those who are cured of syphilis can again become infected with the bacteria.

“Together with the infected persons, we find out about those with whom they would have been in contact, to see whether we can approach these persons and offer tests and treatment, in the hope that we will tackle this disease at the very start”.

Professor Gauci stated that efforts are underway for the 2011 policy on sexual health to be updated in order to better reflect today’s sexual behaviour.

See also:

Malta bit-tieni l-ogħla rata fl-Ewropa tal-marda sesswali s-Sifilide

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