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The characterisation of a recent syphilis outbreak in Sheffield, UK and an evaluation of contact tracing as a method of control.
  1. Selina Singh
  1. University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
    1. Gill Bell
    1. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, United Kingdom
      1. Martin David Talbot (martin.talbot{at}
      1. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, United Kingdom


        Objective: To explore the factors around and the success of contact tracing in a recent significant outbreak of infectious syphilis in Sheffield, and to evaluate the effctiveness of it, our hitherto standard strategy of control.

        Method: Retrospective chart review

        Results: Over a period of 18 months, an outbreak of 21 cases was, on closer inspection, the result of several, discrete 'micro' outbreaks in different groups. Two major patterns emerged, a relatively straightforward and more accessible cluster in heterosexual persons (a 'spread' network), and more sporadic, 'starburst' networks in men who have sex with men.

        Conclusion: Our traditional method of control, contact tracing, was seen to be most effective in the spread network in heterosexuals. In the face of an apparent outbreak, clinicians should explore the nature and parameters of their local epidemic and engage a mixture of control methods. These may include, but not excusively so, contact tracing to interrupt transmission by case-finding and by treatment.

        • contact tracing
        • epidemiology
        • prevention and control
        • syphilis

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