The number of syphilis cases in Japan continues to increase at a record pace.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases says there were 12,965 syphilis infection cases as of November 12. The figure surpasses that for the same period last year, which was the largest since the current method of data compilation began in 1999.
The annual total is expected to be a new record high for the third straight year.
Heavily populated areas have reported more patients, with 3,173 cases in Tokyo and 1,726 in Osaka Prefecture.
But cases have also been surging in less populated areas since last year.
Although syphilis can lead to serious symptoms if left untreated, the disease can be cured with an injection or oral administration of antibiotics.
Pregnant women can pass the infection on to their baby, who could then be born with congenital syphilis.
Reports of such cases of syphilis are on the rise as well.
The national institute confirmed 32 cases as of October 4, surpassing the record 23 cases registered in 2019.
The Japanese Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases created a handbook for tests and treatment of congenital syphilis, as few doctors know how to cure the disease.
Pregnant women are normally tested for syphilis, but some women become infected during pregnancy or fail to be tested.
The handbook encourages doctors to test women who are found to be infected immediately before or after birth, even if the newborn has no obvious symptoms such as skin abnormalities. It also recommends doctors do the same for women who cannot confirm whether they received treatment for a past infection.
The handbook also urges doctors to confirm the baby’s condition on a regular basis, as children born with congenital syphilis can exhibit symptoms, such as developmental delay and hearing difficulties, as they grow older.