Syphilis on the rise despite pandemic

By Dr. Dorothea Flogger
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Syphilis on the rise despite pandemic

Surprisingly, the numbers in Milan rose

At the beginning of 2020, almost nothing will work in Northern Italy. The Corona pandemic has this part of the country in particular under full control. The government in Rome therefore imposes contact bans and curfews. The calculation behind it: The less contact people have with each other, the less chance the virus has of spreading. But how can it be that in the northern Italian city of Milan, of all places, the venereal disease syphilis is on the rise despite the pandemic? At least that is what a recent study suggests.

Syphilis trotz Pandemie auf dem VormarschSyphilis despite pandemic – how can that be?

Fewer contacts, less sex, fewer transmitted venereal diseases. Makes sense. Fewer contacts would inevitably lead to fewer unprotected sexual encounters. So if everyone had followed the measures prescribed by the government, then the number of venereal diseases or new infections would also have decreased. In fact the opposite is true. According to a study by the National Cancer Institute of the IRCCS Foundation in Milan, the number of syphilis cases in April actually increased compared to the previous year – namely from 32 to 44. Syphilis despite pandemic? How can that be? The main author of the study, Marco Cusini, suspects that it is related to the fact that younger people are less at risk from corona. STDs would typically be more likely to occur in those around the age of 30.

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One can therefore confidently assume, based on these figures, that younger people around 30 have adhered less strictly to the ordered lockdown. They apparently managed to meet other people and have sex with them relatively easily despite closed bars and clubs. As a result, it is logical that syphilis has increased despite the pandemic. It is true that the scientists who prepared the study only looked at the figures in a single hospital in Milan. The figures are nevertheless revealing, even if they can only be applied to the entire region to a limited extent.

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But it is of course also possible that the study is an isolated case, a so-called outlier, so to speak. This would fit in with a trend that has been observed worldwide for years. sexually transmitted diseases (STI) are decreasing around the globe. Experts in Germany are therefore more likely to assume that this trend was further strengthened with the start of the lockdown in March 2020. Syphilis despite a pandemic should therefore be the exception rather than the rule in the view of these scientists.

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But what does that mean for those responsible in northern Italy, specifically in Milan, where an increase in cases has been registered in at least one hospital? Well, you can probably assume that a not inconsiderable proportion of younger people did not really stick to the lockdown. In order to prevent syphilis in the future despite the pandemic, it will probably be necessary to do some rework. Even better: To inform more precisely about the dangers.

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