Syphilis on the Rise in Northern Ireland
Health officials in Northern Ireland have confirmed 13 cases of syphilis so far this year, with 12 cases among men who have sex with men, compared to only one case per year in recent years, the Belfast News Letter reports. Similar numbers have been reported in the south of Ireland and some regions of England. Dr. Lorraine Doherty, senior medical officer at the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, said her department, several health and social services boards, hospital clinics and other groups are "all working together on a series of measures we are confident will minimize the risk of more people acquiring syphilis infection and will also ensure" that infected individuals receive treatment. Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, can cause damage to the heart and nervous system and can result in stillbirths in pregnant women. Women can also pass the virus on to their unborn infants in utero. However, with antibiotic treatment "most patients make a full recovery," Dr. Michael McBride, a consultant in Genito-urinary Medicine at the GUM clinic at Belfast's Royal Hospitals, noted. He added that the "most important factor for patients is to seek medical advice urgently if they think they might be at risk from syphilis." Doherty added that all doctors had been told to "be vigilant for new cases" and were reminded about local health centers that offer treatment for syphilis (Belfast News Letter, 10/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.