TOKYO (TR) – Data released by the Government of Japan on Friday revealed the number of syphilis patients last year exceeded 5,000 for the first time, a reason for concern given that the capital is hosting the Olympic Games in two years, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Jan. 5).
According to the Tokyo branch of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the number of recorded cases of the sexually transmitted disease through December 17 totaled 5,534, an increase by more than 1,000 over the year before (4,518). The total exceeded 5,000 for the first time since data began being kept in 1999.
In 2010, the total number was 621, a figure that has steadily jumped in successive years. The reason for the surge in cases is not clear, the institute said, though speculation four years ago was that the increase is due to sexual contact between males.
The largest number of patients were found in Tokyo (1,705), which was followed by Osaka (788), Aichi (325), and Kanagawa prefectures (312).
Syphilis, which is caused by the bacterium treponema that enters wounded skin or mucous membrane, can be treated with antibiotics like penicillin. Initial symptoms include skin rashes in genital areas and lips but neurological problems can possibly follow in later stages.
Should the disease be left untreated, it can move through the body, eventually causing complications in the brain and heart. If a woman contracts the disease either before or after becoming pregnant she can pass it to her baby. Known as congenital syphilis, it is possible for a stillbirth to result or for the infant to suffer from from meningitis and skin rashes.
The latter is particularly troubling considering the number of cases among among women in their 20s has risen significantly, according to the institute.
With Tokyo set to host the Olympic Games in 2020, the metropolitan government has created a budgetary allotment for fiscal 2018 that will allow for the administration of more tests and the training of doctors.