Health authorities in Barbados are urging nationals to educate themselves more about sexually transmitted infections (STI) as the island deals with an outbreak of syphilis.
“The Ministry of Health first raised the alarm in July 2013 and commenced a health education campaign to increase awareness about STIs so more people would be tested for them and protect themselves from acquiring them,” said Senior Medical Officer with responsibility for HIV and STIs, Dr. Anton Best, who on Monday, released the results of a detailed analysis of an outbreak of syphilis in that country.
He said that the outbreak was first detected in 2013 and the Ministry immediately put systems in place to improve syphilis surveillance in Barbados.
The just-completed report analyzed trends in new cases over a four-year period between 2011 and 2014.
According to the Senior Medical Officer, the study revealed a significant increase in the number of syphilis cases between 2011 and 2013. He said the outbreak stabilized in 2014 and 2015.
“The majority of cases occurred in men (72 per cent). Nearly three-quarters of cases occurred in persons between the ages of 15 and 49 years, with the average age of a syphilis case being 34 years.”
The study also examined the potential for syphilis being transmitted to babies and looked at syphilis testing trends among pregnant women.
The health official explained that syphilis was a sexually transmitted infection that could cause serious health problems if it was not treated.
‘It is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), and there are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage. Syphilis can be spread by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Sores can be found on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can also be spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby,” he said.