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New Zealand: Doubling of Syphilis Cases Triggers Epidemic Warning

August 4, 2005

Recent surveillance indicates that New Zealand may be on the brink of a syphilis epidemic, warned Auckland Sexual Health Service (ASHS) physician Sunita Azariah.

Writing in New Zealand Doctor, Azariah cited a 2004 STI report by the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Research that showed a 53 percent increase in cases of infectious syphilis diagnosed at public health clinics from 2003. Of the 46 cases, 63 percent were in the Auckland and Waikato districts, and 74 percent were men.

An ASHS case audit from January 2002 to September 2004 showed that 40 syphilis cases were diagnosed -- twice the number of cases in the previous four years. Most of the cases (82.5 percent) were men, with the main risk factors being either a history of recent sex overseas (47.5 percent) or men having sex with men (45 percent).

But since that audit, ASHS has diagnosed an additional 10 syphilis cases. "In contrast to the recent audit, 90 percent of the cases were heterosexual and 90 percent also gave no history of overseas sex," wrote Azariah. "Many of these later cases… were young heterosexual adolescents and indicate the risk factors for acquisition of syphilis are diversifying -- further evidence of an emerging epidemic."

A key first step in evaluating the epidemic, said Azariah, is to institute compulsory laboratory notifications so as to identify risk factors and target interventions to those most at risk.

Back to other news for August 4, 2005

Adapted from:
New Zealand Herald

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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