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An outbreak of infectious syphilis in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory in 2010 – 2011

An outbreak of infectious syphilis in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory in 2010 – 2011

An increase in the number of notifications of infectious syphilis was noted in the Barkly district of the Northern Territory (NT) in early October 2010. An outbreak of infectious syphilis was established shortly after, which involved cases from Indigenous patients in the NT and Queensland. This study described the outbreak and measures taken to control it.

Data retrieved from relevant local and national surveillance databases and the local syphilis register database were used to describe the epidemiology. A multidisciplinary outbreak control team (OCT) was formed.  Vigorous contact tracing was instigated and NT treatment protocols enforced. A map of the sexual networks among identified individuals was used to assist in understanding the development of this outbreak. Communication was established with intrastate and interstate stakeholders.

Extensive contact tracing identified a total of 25 people (11 female, 14 male) as being involved in the outbreak, a majority of these being residents of Tennant Creek with some from neighbouring communities in the NT and Queensland. Of these, 7 cases of infectious syphilis were diagnosed (3 female, 4 male) with their ages ranging from 20 – 34 years, all being indigenous. The majority of identified individuals, including all cases, have been contacted and treated appropriately. Existing levels of syphilis screening undertaken in the 15 – 35 year age group in the Tennant Creek region were estimated to be between 20 – 30%.  Measures to enhance case-finding and early diagnosis were communicated to local hospital and community clinic staff for on-going control of the infection.
With low and declining rates of infectious syphilis in remote Indigenous communities in the NT, outbreaks of syphilis in the NT can be successfully controlled but require a coordinated and multidisciplinary approach. Community based strategies may be required to further reduce ongoing syphilis transmission.

Speakers: Celina Bond
Areas of Interest / Categories: Australasian Sexual Health Conference 2011

Australasian Sexual Health Conference 2011

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