RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- The number of syphilis cases in adults in Brazil rose 27.9 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, and the number is expected to rise in 2017, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.
According to ministry official Adele Benzaken, the country is facing an epidemic of the disease.
The number of syphilis cases in adults in Brazil totaled 87,593 last year, and the Health Ministry foresees 94,460 new cases in 2017. The number of syphilis cases among adults has been consistently increasing since 2010.
Cases of syphilis among pregnant women are also on the rise. There were 37,436 cases of syphilis in pregnant women in Brazil last year, up 14.7 percent from 2015, and 20,474 babies were infected during gestation, having developed congenital syphilis. The congenital cases increased 4.7 percent from 2015.
The government said that the rising figures are due to more cases being diagnosed and to a higher supply of quick tests, not to an actual advance of the disease, though it admitted that syphilis is an epidemic in the country.
Syphilis can lead to abortions and still births, as well as to several malformations and severe health problems in newborns.
Among pregnant women and babies, the government expects a slight decrease in the number of syphilis cases in 2017, due to more testing during prenatal care. When syphilis is diagnosed during the first trimester, the transmission from mother to child can be prevented.
Health Minister Ricardo Barros promised that syphilis treatment with penicillin is available for free all over Brazil and allocated extra resources to fight the disease in areas with the highest incidence.