Outbreak Training Website

Contact tracing

In the context of the syphilis outbreak, contact tracing of infectious syphilis cases, and particularly those involving pregnant females should be managed urgently and as a priority. When conducting contact tracing of infectious syphilis cases among males, always ask up front if their contact(s) are or could be pregnant and explain the importance of treating pregnant females or females of reproductive age urgently. While some cases may involve significant time and human resources to ensure all contacts are treated appropriately and in a timely manner, the importance of doing so should be stressed, in order to prevent ongoing transmission, congenital syphilis and neonatal deaths. Often there is reluctance to disclose the names of casual partners, and encouragement should be given which emphasises the confidential nature of the case’s disclosure i.e. the contact will be only asked to have a test for syphilis and their own name will not be mentioned.

After treatment, both males and females should be advised to abstain from sex for a certain period of time after their treatment or after their regular partner is treated if this is at a later date. Refer to the guidelines below for the exact number of days that people should abstain from sex.

During pregnancy

  • Ensure contact tracing (including offering testing and treatment to identified contacts) is carried out.  Involve an expert in contact tracing if required or seek advice from a sexual health or other relevant expert.
  • Pregnant females with syphilis need to be informed about the risk of transmission to their baby, treatment, the need for ongoing monitoring and the high risk of re-infection later in pregnancy if their sexual partner(s) are not treated promptly and appropriately.