The Aussie state where syphilis has returned in epidemic proportions – and it’s killing babies2 min read

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A mass outbreak of syphilis – a sexually transmitted disease that was nearly eradicated in the early 2000s – has become one of the ‘biggest medical epidemics in recent history’ for Australia. 

There were just two cases of the sexually transmitted disease in Queensland in 2008, but it has since spread rapidly with more than 1000 cases recorded in the north of the state in the past 10 years.

Most shockingly, there have been six infant deaths in the past six years.

An 'out of control' mass outbreak of syphilis has become the 'biggest medical epidemic in recent history' for Australia (syphilis sufferer pictured)

An 'out of control' mass outbreak of syphilis has become the 'biggest medical epidemic in recent history' for Australia (syphilis sufferer pictured)

An ‘out of control’ mass outbreak of syphilis has become the ‘biggest medical epidemic in recent history’ for Australia (syphilis sufferer pictured)

Blame for syphilis’ savage return has been pegged on the axing of sexual health services in the state.

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Dr Darren Russell, a sexual health clinician in Cairns, described the scale of the problem as ‘out of control’, ABC News reports. 

‘So from almost eradicating it, it’s turned into one of the biggest epidemics in recent history,’ Dr Russell said.

‘Here we are with a good test, a good treatment and we still can’t get on top of it. I’m appalled it’s still happening.’

The disease was nearly totally eradicated in the early 2000s, with blame for its savage return being pegged on the axing of sexual health services (stock photo)

The disease was nearly totally eradicated in the early 2000s, with blame for its savage return being pegged on the axing of sexual health services (stock photo)

The disease was nearly totally eradicated in the early 2000s, with blame for its savage return being pegged on the axing of sexual health services (stock photo)

Health workers believe the disease has spread far beyond what is repairable, with them fearing a renewed effort to wipe it out would be unsuccessful.

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Babies born with syphilis, who have been passed the infection through their mother’s womb, have a death rate of up to 50 per cent.

‘For those babies that do survive, there is the potential for long-term problems like blindness, deafness and cognitive issues,’ he said.

Neville Reys from Wuchopperen Health said the spread occurs rapidly because the disease can go six months without its carrier knowing, therefore they engage in a significant amount of unprotected sex.

Having now swept into the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia, experts are campaigning for the federal government to take immediate action. 

The Commonwealth committed $8.8 million last year to the rollout of a new testing kit which tells users immediately whether they are infected.

The action plan is due to see 62,000 ‘rapid’ test kits sent out across transient populations in Cairns, Darwin and Townsville from next week.

The regime aims to make testing and subsequent treatment more accessible to vulnerable people.

The Commonwealth committed $8.8 million last year to the roll out of a new testing kit which tells users immediately whether they are infected (syphilis sufferer pictured)

The Commonwealth committed $8.8 million last year to the roll out of a new testing kit which tells users immediately whether they are infected (syphilis sufferer pictured)

The Commonwealth committed $8.8 million last year to the roll out of a new testing kit which tells users immediately whether they are infected (syphilis sufferer pictured)