The rising rate of syphilis infection over the past seven years in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, has led the city to reinforce disease-prevention among pregnant women, to rein in mother-to-child transmission.
According to figures from the Shenzhen center for disease control and prevention (CDC), between 2000 and 2006, the annual average rate of increase in the number of people contracting syphilis was 30-40 percent.
Last year, the figure increased to 46 percent, but this was still lower than both the national average increase rate (108 percent) and the provincial rate for Guangdong (89 percent).
Before 2001, male syphilis patients outnumbered female patients. But this is no longer the case. And as a majority of patients are now women, controlling and reducing mother-to-child syphilis transmission is particularly important.
The city has held free syphilis examinations for 785,000 pregnant women since 2002, covering more than 95 percent of all pregnant women in the city, according to Shenzhen Chronic Disease Hospital.
The extensive screening found 3,579 pregnant women with the disease.
From 2003 to 2006, 2,240 pregnant women who contracted syphilis were brought into a mandatory syphilis control system, under which hospitals focused on the care of newborn babies.
"Thanks to this, 2,218 of these women had healthy babies, avoiding at least 603 congenital cases. Only 22 new-borns contracted the disease," Hong Fuchang, the director of the venereal disease department of the chronic disease hospital, said.
Hong said early detection was key to the battle against the disease.
Shenzhen's CDC revealed that more than 80 percent of those with syphilis were between 20 and 39, with no visible symptoms of syphilis in the early stages. Hong said since syphilis examination was not included in the usual physical check-up, people who have unsafe sex should take the initiative and go in for screening themselves.
Treatment for the disease is cheap, and recovery is possible within three weeks if an early diagnosis is made.
(China Daily August 31, 2007)