Notifications for primary and secondary syphilis reached a record high Victoria in 2017, according to health officials.


A total of 1,337 cases of infectious syphilis were notified in Victoria, compared to 1,128 cases in 2016 and 949 cases in 2015, representing 19 per cent and 41 per cent increase respectively.

The large majority of notified cases continue to occur in males with 74 per cent of males reporting male sexual partners as the source of infection. A third of the cases in MSM were in HIV positive MSM and of these, two thirds were reinfections.

There has been a continued increase of notified cases among women over the last three years. In 2017, 146 cases were notified (representing 11 per cent of total cases) compared to 100 cases in 2016 (8 per cent of total cases) and 52 in 2015 (5 per cent of total cases). The increase of syphilis in women is of particular public health concern as syphilis can cause serious birth defects including fetal death.

For the first time since 2004, congenital syphilis has re-emerged in Victoria, with two cases notified in 2017. One case resulted in fetal death. Women may be unaware of their risk of syphilis.

Screening at risk groups, including antenatal screening, and adequate timely treatment of cases and sexual partners are crucial for the prevention of syphilis infections.