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Clinical management | Contact tracing

Contact tracing of infectious syphilis cases, and particularly those involving people who are pregnant should be managed urgently and as a priority. When conducting contact tracing of infectious syphilis always ask up front if their contact(s) are/could be pregnant and explain the importance of treating pregnant women or women of reproductive age urgently. While some cases may involve significant time and staff to ensure all contacts are treated appropriately and quickly, 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 contact tracing i.e., their contact will be only asked to have a test for syphilis and the clients name will not be mentioned.

After treatment, both males and females should be advised to not have sex (abstain) for a certain period of time after their treatment or after their partner is treated if this is at a later date. Refer to the guidelines below for the exact number of days that people should not have sex.

Contact tracing summary and importance:
  • 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.
  • People who are pregnant and have a syphilis infection 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.