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Infectious syphilis outbreak in SA

An outbreak of infectious syphilis was declared in South Australia in May 2017.

The South Australian outbreak of infectious syphilis has been linked to an outbreak in Northern and Central Australia which began in 2011 and to mid-2019 has affected more than 2,6000 people in Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia, including deaths from congenital syphilis.

Syphilis is a serious infection that can spread easily.

If passed during pregnancy to a baby, syphilis can cause stillbirth or severe abnormalities affecting eyes, ears and bones. Contracting syphilis can also increase the risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Syphilis is most infectious within the first two years of infection during the primary and second stages (early infection) so early testing and treatment is important to stop the spread of infection.

Prevent the spread of syphilis by contacting your local health service, GP or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service to get tested for syphilis.

Visit the Sexual health services page or visit the National Health Service Directory to find a health service or GP near you.

South Australian Syphilis Outbreak Response

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.

More information

For more information about infectious syphilis, see Syphilis symptoms, treatment and prevention.

For more information about the outbreak of infectious syphilis in South Australia:

For more information about the outbreak of infectious syphilis in Northern and Central Australia, see the Commonwealth Department of Health – Infectious syphilis outbreak.

For health promotion and educational resources related to infectious syphilis, see Young, Deadly, Syphilis Free.

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