Report of Notifiable Conditions Sexually Transmitted Infections or Related Death form
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An outbreak of infectious syphilis, affecting rural and remote Aboriginal communities in the Far North and Eyre and Western regions of South Australia (SA), since November 2016 extended to metropolitan Adelaide in November 2018. As of August 2020, case numbers continue to increase across all regions. This outbreak is part of a multi-jurisdictional outbreak of syphilis occurring across northern Australia in predominantly rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Syphilis is highly infectious during the first two years of infection. Pregnant women can transmit syphilis to their babies, which can result in perinatal death, premature delivery, and congenital abnormalities. In SA, two children have been born with congenital syphilis. Syphilis also increases the risk of HIV transmission.
Medical practitioners in the outbreak areas and surrounding regions are advised to:
All medical practitioners should:
Locating, testing, and treating partners of infectious cases is also important in controlling syphilis.
In response to the syphilis outbreak, in 2017 the Communicable Disease Control Branch formed the SA Syphilis Outbreak Working Group (the Working Group) comprised of representatives from various government, non-government and community controlled health services. The Working Group’s role is to monitor and coordinate the state syphilis outbreak response, with the aim of concentrating immediate efforts to contain the current outbreak, while simultaneously seeking to develop sustainable, long term interventions designed to improve the sexual health of populations in outbreak affected areas and more broadly. In order to achieve this aim, the Working Group developed the South Australian Syphilis Outbreak Response Plan, 2019 (PDF 318KB) that has been endorsed by the Minister for Health and Wellbeing as a priority.
The SA Syphilis Register is a secure, confidential, single statewide database that includes all laboratory positive syphilis cases diagnosed in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander South Australians that meet the syphilis national case definition. Register staff may undertake or assist with Partner Notification, (also known as contact tracing) for all contacts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cases, regardless of Aboriginality. Register staff contact partners (or coordinate the contacting of partners) with the aim of coordinating syphilis screening and treatment, where appropriate.
For more information about the outbreak of infectious syphilis in South Australia view the fact sheets: Frequently Asked Questions for community members (PDF 102KB) and Fact sheet for health professionals (PDF 108KB).
For more information about the outbreak of infectious syphilis in Northern and Central Australia, see the Australian Government Department of Health – Infectious syphilis outbreak.
For health promotion and educational resources related to infectious syphilis, see Young, Deadly, Syphilis Free.
For further clinical information about infectious syphilis, see Syphilis diagnosis and management.
For general information about infectious syphilis, see Syphilis - including symptoms, treatment and prevention.