Japan: Syphilis a concern for women in 20s

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The number of people infected with syphilis in Japan this year had reached 5,081 as of Sept. 30, exceeding the threshold of 5,000 for the second year in a row, a report released Wednesday by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) in Tokyo has revealed.

 Syphilis cases have increased at a faster rate than last year when the figure exceeded 5,000 for the first time in 44 years. The disease — which is transmitted through sexual contact — is currently being seen mostly among men in their 20s to 40s and women in their 20s.

 “Many [of the patients] are women involved in sex-related work and men who are their customers,” said Yasuhiko Onoe, director of Private Care Clinic Tokyo in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, which provides treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. “There are also cases in which a husband infected [with syphilis] transmits [the disease] to his wife,” the doctor added.

 By prefecture, syphilis is seen mostly in urban areas, such as Tokyo with 1,284 cases reported, Osaka Prefecture with 874, Aichi Prefecture with 338, Kanagawa Prefecture with 280 and Fukuoka Prefecture with 229.

 Syphilis causes lumps to appear on a patient’s genitals, mouth and anus about three weeks after infection, and a rash subsequently spreads across their body, including on the arms and legs. The symptoms subside and reappear repeatedly.

 The disease can be treated with antibacterial drugs. But if left untreated, it can trigger abnormalities in the brain, heart and other parts of the body. Pregnant women with the disease can also infect their unborn babies, which may result in the infant’s death.

 Makoto Onishi of the NIID’s Department of Bacteriology I said: “One can curb the risk of being infected [with syphilis] by avoiding sexual contact with many unspecified people and using condoms, but these measures are not perfect. One should receive a medical examination if an infection is suspected, and be treated as soon as the infection is confirmed.”

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