Outbreak Training Website

History of syphilis prior to the outbreak

Prior to the current outbreak, significant reductions in infectious syphilis had occurred among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas with previously endemic levels of syphilis. Factors likely to have contributed to these reductions include the widespread use of antibiotics, effective syphilis screening programs and regionally-based syphilis registers that have assisted with improved case detection and appropriate management.1

However rates of gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis had been very high for many years. This situation reflects firstly, a comparatively young age of the Australian Aboriginal population (mean age 23 years vs 38 years for entire population).  Secondly, people living in regional, rural and remote areas can experience poorer health outcomes related to challenges in accessing healthcare, employment, housing and other social and financial factors.

Graph: Epidemic curve showing category 1 infectious syphilis outbreak cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people residing in affected regions of Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia from commencement of the outbreak in each jurisdiction to 30 June 2019.

Graph available from - Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Immunisation, Surveillance and Disease Control Program.

Overview of current outbreak

An outbreak of infectious syphilis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living largely in remote and regional areas was first reported in northwest Queensland in January 2011. Over the years, the outbreak spread to other jurisdictions including the Northern Territory (NT), Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA).

For a full list of current outbreak regions, please refer to the most recent Surveillance Reports published by the Multijurisdictional Syphilis Outbreak Group (MJSO)

This website provides a variety of other information relating to the outbreak.


1 Ward JS, Guy RJ et al. Epidemiology of syphilis in Australia: moving towards elimination of infectious syphilis from remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities? Med J Aust 2011; 194 (10): 525–529.