Significant increase in syphilis infections

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Renaissance of syphilis diseases increased significantly

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of syphilis diseases in Germany has increased massively in the past year. The number of reported syphilis infections increased by more than 20 percent in 2011, the RKI announced on Monday.

"In 2011, with a nationwide incidence of 4.5 syphilis infections per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest incidence since the introduction of the Infection Protection Act in 2001 was recorded", write the experts of the RKI in a current epidemiological bulletin. According to the RKI, the trend to be observed for syphilis infections is "worrying".

Sharp increase in syphilis infections in 2011 According to the RKI, 3,698 syphilis infections were reported in 2011, which is a dramatic increase compared to the number of infections in the previous year (3,033 infections). "The number of reports has thus returned to the level of 1986," said the RKI. After a period of stagnating infection numbers between 2004 and 2008 and recently falling infection numbers in 2009 and 2012, the trend reversed in 2011. The increase in syphilis infections in 2011 was "worrying," reports the RKI. A clear increase in the number of syphilis infections was observed in eleven federal states. Only in Thuringia, Brandenburg and Rhineland-Palatinate did the number of diseases decrease slightly, in Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt "the incidence remained almost the same," the RKI announced. In contrast, there are significant increases in new cases in the city-states of Berlin (incidence of 18 infections per 100,000 population), Hamburg (incidence 13.3) and Bremen (incidence 7.9), as well as above-average syphilis infection numbers in North Rhine-Westphalia (incidence 5 , 5) and Hessen (incidence 4.6). Apart from the city states of Berlin and Hamburg, the highest incidences were to be found in large cities such as Cologne (incidence 24), Frankfurt (incidence 21) and Munich (incidence 17.3), according to the RKI's Epidemiological Bulletin.

Gender-specific differences in syphilis infections According to the Robert Koch Institute, the most common cause of the infectious disease is “sex between men”. Such sex contacts accounted for "84 percent of all information on the probable route of infection," reports the RKI. Accordingly, "the number of syphilis reports in men increased more than in women (23% vs. 13%)," according to the statement in the Epidemiological Bulletin. According to the RKI, the proportion of reported syphilis cases in women was “only 6.4 percent”. The incidence of syphilis in men with 8.6 infections per 100,000 population was 14 times higher than the incidence of women (0.6), the institute announced. Syphilis is usually transmitted during sexual intercourse, whereby sex with a sick partner entails a relatively high risk of infection. "Since the risk of HIV transmission increases if there is a syphilis infection, it is important that syphilis infections are recognized and treated early," warn the RKI experts in the current Epidemiological Bulletin.

Symptoms of syphilis disease Syphilis is a bacterial infectious disease that is initially characterized by the formation of reddish ulcers in the places where the pathogens have penetrated the skin or mucous membrane. These ulcers usually remain painless at first and secrete an aqueous fluid. Weeks after infection, those affected show symptoms reminiscent of flu, such as fever, headache, and body aches. Itchy rash and swelling of the lymph nodes are other typical consequences of the infection. (fp)

Picture: Gerd Altmann

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