More than 500 cases of syphilis have been reported among the Indigenous patients in Queensland since the start of 2014. But in 2015, about 2,000 people are believed to have contracted the sexually transmitted disease in Australia.
Syphilis is a chronic bacterial disease that can spread from one person to another during sexual intercourse. Pregnant women can also pass on the infection to the fetus which is called as congenital syphilis.
‘With a record of over 2,000 cases, this is said to be the biggest syphilis outbreak in Queensland over 30 years and the numbers are escalating among the indigenous people more than non-indigenous.
The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health council's head Sandy Gillies said that preventive programs must be restored. Furthermore, there should be mandatory sexual health screening for blood-borne viruses and bacteria during adult health check-ups.
"Given the reported deaths of three infants from congenital syphilis - where the infection is passed from a mother during pregnancy and or birth onto the infant - all ante-natal patients should also be encouraged," she said.
The outbreak began in Queensland's Doomadgee four years ago and has now spread across the top of Australia.
"Only four years ago, the Medical Journal of Australia was reporting the likelihood of syphilis being eliminated in remote Australia and yet today it is reported that we are undergoing the biggest outbreak in 30 years.
The escalating rate of syphilis in Queensland's far north is 300 times more frequent amongst indigenous people, than among the non-indigenous community.
"We had specific sexual health workers and sexual health blood-borne virus programs that were in place and they need to be re-established and they need to be refunded by Government."
Syphilis can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics, but if left untreated it can have serious health impacts like dementia, blindness and permanent brain and heart damage.