Health officials warn of national syphilis outbreak

There are concerns that there may be 'a large reservoir' of undiagnosed cases
Health officials warn of national syphilis outbreak

Irish health officials are warning of a national outbreak of syphilis.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. Untreated, it can cause serious health problems to the heart, brain, eyes and nervous system, and complications may take many years to develop.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), a national outbreak of early infectious syphilis (EIS) was declared and has been under investigation since June of this year.

There are concerns that there may be “a large reservoir” of undiagnosed cases, as many STI services have been operating at a reduced level due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is a potentially large undiagnosed reservoir of syphilis infection in Ireland due in part to the impact of Covid-19,” the HPSC said.

“Syphilis is a very treatable sexually transmitted infection (STI) and early recognition and treatment are critical to preventing avoidable morbidity for those infected and onward transmission to others.”


Cases of EIS were rising prior to the pandemic, however, there was a small decrease in cases that coincided with Ireland’s first lockdown.

The HPSC said infections are now increasing once more, exceeding the numbers observed in 2019 and previous years.

There were 242 cases reported in the first four months of this year.

Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow accounted for 79 per cent of cases, followed by nine per cent in Cork and Kerry. 91 per cent of cases were in men, with nine per cent were in women.

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