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Syphilis cases in Japan soar above 10,000 in 2022 for 1st time

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TOKYO -- The number of syphilis cases recorded across Japan so far this year has topped 10,000 -- the first time the figure has climbed above the threshold since records began, according to preliminary data.

    A total of 10,141 syphilis cases had been recorded this year as of Oct. 23, far exceeding last year's pace. Last year Japan saw 7,875 cases -- a record at the time -- but that figure was passed in September this year. The latest preliminary nationwide figure was determined from a national government tally released on Oct. 27 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Infectious Disease Surveillance Center.

    Sex with multiple partners met through social media and dating apps has been blamed as a factor behind the surge.

    Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum, which enter the human body through invisible tiny wounds on the skin or mucus membranes. Syphilis cases began to increase in Japan in around 2011. The number declined in 2020, but jumped again last year.

    Though patients can be completely cured with early drug treatment, they may mistakenly think that they have recovered because symptoms repeatedly appear and disappear as the disease spreads throughout the body. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications in the heart or brain, leading to death. As the bacteria can infect people over and over, it is necessary for patients to prevent reinfection even after finishing treatment.

    To prevent the spread of infections, early testing and treatment are crucial. It is also important for people to take STD tests every time they switch partners.

    (Japanese original by Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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