Date issued: 25 March 2019
Issued by: Dr Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to: Health professionals
- Victorian syphilis notifications continue to increase in women as well as in men who have sex with men (MSM).
- For the first time since 2004, congenital syphilis is re-emerging with four confirmed cases notified to the department, including two fetal deaths.
- Left untreated, congenital syphilis can cause serious birth defects including fetal death.
- Syphilis screening should be conducted at the first antenatal session. Additional screening during pregnancy should be done for women in at-risk groups.
- Screen all at-risk groups: MSM, bisexual men and their female partners, heterosexuals with multiple sexual partners, and those previously or currently diagnosed with an STI.
- Refer pregnant women with syphilis for specialist advice and treatment.
- Contact sexual partners of syphilis cases at the time of diagnosis and test and treat for syphilis without waiting for results.
- Use long acting intramuscular penicillin formulations (benzathine penicillin). Do not use short acting formulations (e.g. benzyl penicillin) as they are ineffective.
- Educate patients about transmission (vaginal, anal and oral sex), prevention strategies (condoms greatly reduce transmission) and early symptom recognition.
Read the full alert: Syphilis cases continue to rise in Victoria