Malta had second highest rate of syphilis in the European Union in 2017

Iceland and Malta, two countries with small populations, had the highest rate of syphilis in the European Union with 15.4 cases and 13.5 cases per 100,000 people respectively

Syphilis is on the rise all over Europe
Syphilis is on the rise all over Europe

Malta had the second highest rate of syphilis in the European union in 2017, with 13.5 cases per 100,000 people according to an epidemiological report.

The report was published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) and it gave Iceland the top spot with 15.4 cases per 100,000 people. The United Kingdom followed Malta with a rate of 11.8, and Spain was placed fourth with a rate of 10.3.

This means that there were 62 confirmed cases in Malta in 2017. The rates have been steadily increasing as the report makes reference to cases going back to 2007. In 2007, Malta's rate of syphilis cases was at just 2.7. In Iceland it was at 0.3. The rate more than doubled in Malta since 2010.

The average rate in the EU was 7.1 in 2017.

According to the report, syphilis cases increased drastically in Europe over the last decade except in very few countries like Latvia. The ECDPC said that syphilis became more common in some countries than new cases of HIV.

It added that reported cases of the disease across Europe is likely caused by the decline in stigma surrounding sexual behaviour and the increase of unprotected sex. Riskier sexual behaviour among homosexual men is also cited as a likely cause.

Malta also had among the highest rate of men with syphilis, according to the report. The highest rates were observed in Germany, Iceland, Ireland and Malta.

Iceland (58%), Lithuania (39%) and Malta (42%) reported the largest proportion of cases of latent syphilis, when the virus is still alive in the body, but without any signs or symptoms of the infection.

The report also makes suggestive comments on the use of technology and applications to quickly find sexual partners which could have possibly led to a rise in the disease as well.

Left untreated, syphilis can have severe complications in men and women, including causing stillbirths and newborn deaths and increasing the risk of HIV.

Syphilis was one of the leading causes of baby loss globally in 2016.