Syphilis cases increasing in Japan

Japan has seen a more than three-fold increase in cases of syphilis between 2014 and 2017.

There has been a gradual rise in syphilis cases in Japan, with a more than three-fold increase in cases between 2014 and 2017, totalling 6,000 cases for the year, according to a local news report. The report said that this is the first time cases have topped the 5,000 mark in 44 years, and that the number is expected to continue to increase.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum and is mainly transmitted through the skin and the mucous membrane of the sex organs and mouth. Health experts have recommended that travellers who think they are at risk of having contracted the disease should book an immediate health check as patients often do not realise they are infected and may infect others before getting treatment.

Syphilis symptoms include lumps and ulcers in genital areas and the mouth, which develop within several weeks of infection. If they are not treated properly, a person can develop memory impairment and sustain damage to the peripheral nerves.

“Do not have sex with potential carriers in risky ways and undergo an immediate checkup if you think you are at risk,” Takaoki Ishiji, a Dermatology Professor at Jikei University and Vice-President of the Japanese Society for Sexually Transmitted Infections, advised travellers.