Cases of syphilis in England have risen by 148% over the past 10 years — and the epidemic appears to be global

  • There's more bad news for people who have unprotected sex.
  • As well as super-gonorrhea, syphilis is on the rise.
  • There were 20% more cases in England in the past year, and 148% more than in 2008.
  • The public health advice for prevention is still the same — just wear a condom.


It's a bad era to be having unprotected sex. Chlamydia testing has fallen 8% in the last year, there's a strain of drug resistant super-gonorrhea going around, and according to new data from Public Health England, syphilis is well and truly back with a vengeance.

According to the report, syphilis cases in England have reached the highest level since 1949. The sexually transmitted infection was responsible for 7,137 of all 422,147 diagnoses in 2017, which is 20% more than 2016, and 148% higher than 2008.

For quite a while, syphilis was considered a disease of the past, like polio or smallpox. But it has been on the rise in recent years. For example, there were 20,000 cases in the US in 2014, reported by the CDC, and in 2016, cases in Indiana skyrocketed by 70% in a single year.

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Health Rankings: Bottom 15 states

36. Florida

Overall score: -0.307

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37. Missouri

Overall score: -0.338

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38. New Mexico

Overall score: -0.363

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39. Indiana

Overall score: -0.372

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40. Ohio

Overall score: -0.391

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41. Georgia

Overall score: -0.464

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42. South Carolina

Overall score: -0.531

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43. West Virginia

Overall score: -0.595

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44. Tennessee

Overall score: -0.626

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45. Kentucky

Overall score: -0.651

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46. Oklahoma

Overall score: -0.691

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47. Alabama

Overall score: -0.793

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48. Arkansas

Overall score: -0.834

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49. Louisiana

Overall score: -1.043

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50. Mississippi

Overall score: -1.123

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Also, the report shows how certain STIs have spread globally in the past 10 years, such as in Australia, where syphilis cases rose by 107% and gonorrhea by 63% between 2011 and 2016.

According to the new report, cases of gonorrhea also increased by 22% to 46,676 in England. But the total number of STIs diagnosed in the country was about the same as 2016, as there was a reduction in other conditions like genital warts — so at least there's some good news.

The age group who are most likely to be diagnosed with an STI are straight 15 to 24 year olds, black ethnic minorities, and gay or bisexual men, the report added.

"Sexually transmitted infections pose serious consequences to health — both your own and that of your current and future sexual partners," said Gwenda Hughes, a consultant scientist and head of the sexually transmitted infection section at PHE. "The impact of STIs can be considerable, with some causing infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and harm to unborn babies.

"Consistent and correct condom use with new and casual partners is the best defence against STIs, and if you are at risk, regular check-ups are essential to enable early diagnosis and treatment."

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Health Rankings: Top 15 states
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Health Rankings: Top 15 states

15. Idaho

Overall score: 0.356

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14. Rhode Island

Overall score: 0.422

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13. New York

Overall score: 0.430

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12. Nebraska

Overall score: 0.432

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11. North Dakota

Overall score: 0.473

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10. Colorado

Overall score: 0.559

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9. New Jersey

Overall score: 0.571

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8. Utah

Overall score: 0.578

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7. Washington

Overall score: 0.582

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6. New Hampshire

Overall score: 0.696

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5. Vermont

Overall score: 0.709

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4. Minnesota

Overall score: 0.727

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3. Connecticut

Overall score: 0.747

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2. Massachusetts

Overall score: 0.760

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1. Hawaii

Overall score: 0.905

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