Published Date: 2012-08-08 12:46:00
Subject: PRO/EDR Syphilis – Australia (03): (QL) indigenous, RFI
Archive Number: 20120808.1234631
SYPHILIS – AUSTRALIA (03): (QUEENSLAND) INDIGENOUS, REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Tue 7 Aug 2012
Source: The Telegraph, The Courier-Mail report [edited]
Syphilis has exploded in the state’s [Queensland] remote indigenous communities as under-resourced health workers struggle to curb an epidemic of the sexually transmitted infection. The disease has already claimed the lives of 2 babies, stillborn after contracting it from their mothers.
Syphilis, which left unchecked can cause heart failure, blindness, and dementia, has been almost eradicated from the Western world. It is easily treated with penicillin and prevented by practicing safe sex. But doctors say they are losing the war against a syphilis outbreak in remote parts of Queensland because they cannot recruit enough staff and do not have the tools to adequately screen the population.
Mount Isa and Townsville Health Service District clinical director staff specialist Dr Arun Menon said Queenslanders should be outraged. “We should be upset that this is happening in 21st century Australia and … on our doorstep,” he said. “If we had an outbreak of syphilis in Brisbane, I can only imagine what the response would be.”
There have been 146 cases of syphilis reported in the Mount Isa region since the epidemic began last year . As well as the stillborn babies, 4 other infants have been treated after possible exposure to the disease this year .
In 2010, only 16 cases of syphilis were treated within the North West Hospital and Health Service region. Dr Menon said the latest outbreak was unusual because it was prevalent in heterosexual young people aged 15 to 24. He said Queensland Health was already actively screening individuals, as well as promoting safe sex and sending condom dispensing machines to remote communities.
Rural Doctors Association of Queensland past president Dr Ewen McPhee said factors influencing retention of health workers in remote areas included access to affordable accommodation, childcare and schooling, ongoing professional development, and the ability for a spouse to find suitable work.
[Byline: Brooke Baskin]
ProMED-mail from HealthMap alerts
[In the prior ProMED-mail post in February 2012 (Syphilis - Australia: (QL) 20120215.1042038), an outbreak of infectious syphilis in the Queensland, Australia mining town of Mount Isa was reported to be due to heterosexual activity based on Mount Isa's booming prostitution trade. Fly-in/fly-out or drive-in/drive-out women sex workers travel great distances to the mining regions of Queensland for a few days or weeks in hotels, motels, or caravan parks before returning home or moving on to the next mining town in a circuit. Prostitution is said to be legal, but unregulated, for these women to work as sole operators as long as they don't solicit in public (http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/coal-girls-hit-paydirt-at-mines/story-e6freoof-1226186661381).
In a subsequent ProMED-mail post in May 2012 (Syphilis - Australia (02): (QL) increased incidence, RFI 20120510.1128901), an outbreak of infectious syphilis in Mount Isa was reported among young people under 25 years of age without mention of sex, race, or minority group of the involved persons, sexual orientation, sexual behaviors, other risk behaviors, such as use of prostitutes or the use of drugs during sexual activity, other STDs, or HIV co-infection.
Now, an outbreak of syphilis in the Mount Isa region is reported in the news report above among heterosexual young people aged 15 to 24 in remote indigenous communities that is also associated with cases of congenital syphilis. It would be helpful to have information concerning any possible linkage of the outbreaks of syphilis among miners who use of itinerant prostitutes in Mount Isa, among young people in Mount Isa, and now among young indigenous people in remote communities in the Mount Isa region. A detailed epidemiologic investigation is required so that preventive measures can be targeted to specific high-risk groups and activities.
In contrast, infectious syphilis in the rest of Australia has been attributed mainly to men who have sex with men (http://www.med.unsw.edu.au/NCHECRweb.nsf/resources/2011/$file/KIRBY_ASR2011.pdf).
Mount Isa is a city in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Australia, with vast mineral deposits of lead, silver, copper, and zinc found in the region (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Isa). The HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of Queensland, on which Mount Isa can be found, can be accessed at http://healthmap.org/r/2lcz. - Mod.ML]
Syphilis – Australia (02): (QL) increased incidence, RFI 20120510.1128901
Syphilis – Australia: (QL) 20120215.1042038
Syphilis – Canada (02): background 20120211.1038978
Syphilis – Canada: (NB) 20120210.1038543
Syphilis – USA (02): background 20111116.3383
Syphilis – USA: (AL) 20111116.3378
Syphilis – USA: (NC) RFI 20090831.3069
Syphilis – USA, Canada 20081112.3561
Syphilis – USA: (IN) 20080826.2668
Syphilis – USA (NY) 20070814.2650
Syphilis, ocular – Australia (NSW, VIC) 20070515.1547
Syphilis – USA (ID) 20050629.1831
Syphilis HIV spread via Internet – USA (Calif.) 19990827.1495]
Article source: http://healthmap.org/ln.php?1234631&promed&0