China syphilis infections up 30% each year: report

Islamabad, March 1 (Newswire): Rampant prostitution which has
accompanied China’s rapid economic growth is fuelling a 30 percent
increase in syphilis infections each year.

Syphilis was almost wiped out in China 50 years ago, but has increased
10-fold over the past decade to emerge as one of the country’s top
five infectious diseases, the China Daily said, quoting the ministry
of health.

The rate of mother-to-child transmissions jumped alarmingly to 57
cases per 100,000 newborns between 2003 and 2008, from a previous
seven cases per 100,000, it said.

The report follows an article in the New England Journal of Medicine
last month that said one child was born with syphilis in China each
hour as infected men pass it onto their wives, who in turn pass it to
their foetuses.

It added that at least a third of homosexual men were also married due
to social pressures, further increasing transmission to spouses.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection which can be easily treated with
antibiotics if diagnosed early, but if left untreated can lead to
paralysis, blindness and death.

However, the spread of syphilis in China is further fuelled by a
social stigma that discourages sufferers from seeking treatment,
experts have said.

China had 32,000 new reported infections in May alone, including two
deaths, the China Daily said.

China’s rapidly growing economy has spurred huge population movements
and a massive prostitution industry that have led to the resurgence of
syphilis, the newspaper quoted experts saying.

“Massage parlours” and other venues for prostitution are ubiquitous in
Chinese cities, despite it being illegal.

The newspaper said six million Chinese women were believed involved in
the sex trade, but other independent estimates have put the figure
twice as high.

No other country has seen such a rapid rise in syphilis cases since
the discovery of penicillin, the New England Journal of Medicine
article said.