As you may be aware, an outbreak of infectious syphilis affecting rural and remote Aboriginal communities in the Far North and Eyre and Western regions of South Australia has been ongoing since November 2016. The outbreak has now extended to include metropolitan Adelaide, and is part of a larger multi-jurisdictional outbreak affecting predominantly rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across northern Australia.
A public health alert about the outbreak was released by Communicable Disease Control Branch on 14 November 2018 (see www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/healthalerts).
People infected with syphilis in pregnancy can transmit syphilis to their baby, which can result in perinatal death, premature delivery, and congenital abnormalities. Since the beginning of the outbreak in South Australia five cases of infectious syphilis have occurred in pregnancy, and one child has been born with congenital syphilis.
To prevent further cases of congenital syphilis, the Communicable Disease Control Branch has recommended increased syphilis testing during pregnancy for all high risk people. People at higher risk during pregnancy include:
- Aboriginal people who reside in, or have travelled through, an outbreak area; or
- Any person (regardless of cultural background) with an Aboriginal sexual partner, if either resides in, or has travelled through, an outbreak area.
In this high risk group, syphilis testing is recommended at:
- Initial antenatal visit (10-12 weeks);
- 28 weeks;
- 36 weeks;
- 6 weeks post-delivery (post-natal check).
The South Australian Perinatal Practice Guidelines were updated in June 2018 to reflect these recommendations. Testing and timely treatment of syphilis during pregnancy can reduce the incidence of congenital syphilis. We ask that you distribute this information to all clinical colleagues involved in the care of pregnant people who are at high risk of syphilis infection, to ensure staff are aware of these recommendations and to reduce the risk of further cases of congenital syphilis.
For further information please contact Tracey Hutt, 0434 937 036.
Established in 1970 as the Family Planning Association of South Australia, SHINE SA has expanded beyond traditional family planning services.
Today SHINE SA is a leading not-for-profit provider of primary care services and education for sexual and relationship wellbeing.
SHINE SA’s service and education delivery model works to provide sexual health education, early intervention, health promotion, clinical services and therapeutic counselling.
SHINE SA provides nurse-led and medical clinical assessment, treatment and counselling services across nine clinical sites.
Drop-in clinics provide free responsive access to young people under the age of 25.
SHINE SA conducts workforce development education for doctors, nurses/midwives, community workers and teachers, and strives to enhance these services through optimising technology.
SHINE SA staff travel throughout South Australia to promote sexual and reproductive health.
The Focus Schools Program, building on SHINE SA’s strong partnership with the Department for Education and Child Development, operates across 93% of South Australian secondary schools and an increasing number of primary schools supporting teachers to deliver a relationships and sexual health education curriculum.
- Social Justice
The communities that we service are:
- people 30 years and under
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
- people with disabilities including mental health
- people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- men who have sex with men
- sex workers
- people living with HIV
- people living in regional, rural and remote SA
Our approach has been developed over the years as an organisation that works in partnership with governments, communities, education facilities and community agencies to improve the sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing of South Australians.
M: 0434 937 036