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Number of syphilis cases in Japan skyrockets 77 percent

Staff Writer |
The rapid rise of syphilis has prompted the health ministry in Japan to form a special research team to find ways of stopping the sexually transmitted disease.

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There were 4,259 syphilis cases from January 1 to early December 2016, Kyodo reports, up 77 percent from the 2,412 cases logged in the same period in 2015, and up by more than seven-fold from a decade ago.

Most of the cases are believed to be caused by heterosexual intercourse, but rare cases of mother-to-child transmission are also on the rise.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is urging people who feel they might be infected to get tested immediately because the disease can be transmitted despite the absence of symptoms.

Factors including changes in sexual behavior in Japan’s youths and its adult entertainment business, as well as the surge in tourists from countries with high infection rates are often cited as causes, but the true cause of syphilis’ rapid spread over the past decade remains unclear.

Syphilis is especially rife in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, the capital’s primary entertainment and nightlife hub. Local hospitals say the ward accounts for 40 percent of Tokyo’s syphilis cases and 20 percent of all cases across Japan.

The ministry’s special research team plans to find out how the disease is being spread, especially via heterosexual routes, by the end of March 2018 by working with hospitals in Tokyo.

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