A new report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has shown that new cases of syphilis across Europe have recently skyrocketed, with reported cases up 70 percent since 2010.
The report examined cases of syphilis which were reported across 30 countries between 2007 and 2017.
According to the new report, between 2010 and 2017, rates of the sexually transmitted disease have more than doubled in Ireland, Germany, the U.K., Iceland, and Malta.
Syphilis, which is caused by a bacterium, can result in serious health consequences. Generally, those who’ve been infected will first experience a painful sore that eventually goes away. Following this initial symptom, individuals may develop flu-like symptoms and a rash. If not treated, the disease can result in neurosyphilis – the kind of syphilis which often results in mental illness.
Even after the symptoms subside, the infection can last for decades. The infection can increase the risk of transmitting HIV, and in pregnant women, can lead to fetal loss and/or stillbirths.
The ECDC, based in Stockholm, confirmed in their report that new cases of syphilis now outnumber new cases of HIV. According to the data, 25,353 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2017, down from over 31,000 cases in the previous year.
Andrew Amato-Gauci, the head of the ECDC program for HIV and venereal diseases, commented on the data saying, “The growth in the number of syphilis infections we see in Europe and other countries around the world is the result of several factors such as sex without a condom and with multiple sexual partners, combined with less fear of getting HIV.”
The study mentioned that increases in cases among heterosexuals included other factors like substance abuse and “several social vulnerabilities such as poverty, homelessness, ethnic minority, migrant or refugee status.”
Data from the published report also suggests that men aged 25 to 34 are especially likely to become infected with the sexually transmitted disease in relation to other demographic groups like women and other age groups. Homosexual men were cited in the study as being particularly at risk.
But syphilis isn’t the only sexually transmitted disease to see an increase in Europe. In 2017, the Swedish Public Health Authority revealed that the country had witnessed the largest ever increase in gonorrhea cases, painfully continuing the reversal of a trend which nearly saw the complete eradication of the disease.
Other diseases which were believed to have been eradicated completely long ago or that were entirely foreign to the continent have also seen increases, mostly due to the ongoing migrant crisis.
Tuberculosis, parasites, scabies, gastrointestinal and liver diseases, and even flesh-eating tropical disease have all been seen in recent years.