On 6 June 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) published updates to its ‘Essential Medicines List’ (EML). Read more here.

Eurosurveillance is on the updated list of the Directory of Open Access Journals and in the SHERPA/RoMEO database. Read more here.

Follow Eurosurveillance on Twitter: @Eurosurveillanc

In this issue

Home Eurosurveillance Monthly Release  1996: Volume 1/ Issue 1 Article 1
Back to Table of Contents
en es fr pt

Eurosurveillance, Volume 1, Issue 1, 01 January 1996
Surveillance report
Increase of syphilis in Finland related to the Russian epidemic

Citation style for this article: Hilthunen-Back E, Haikala O, Koskela P, Reunala T. Increase of syphilis in Finland related to the Russian epidemic. Euro Surveill. 1996;1(1):pii=197. Available online:

E. Hiltunen­Back1, O. Haikala1, P. Koskela1, Timo Reunala2

1 National Public Health Institute, 2 Helsinki University, Department of Dermatology, Finland

In the early 1990s only 30 to 40 new serologically confirmed cases of syphilis were reported annually in Finland. Typical syphilis patients were heterosexual men who acquired the infection abroad. Since 1993, the incidence of syphilis has increased (see figure). In 1995, a total of 118 new cases were diagnosed, which is nearly twice as many as in 1994 (63 cases). Thirty-seven per cent of all patients diagnosed with syphilis in 1995 were female, 77% of whom had been infected in Finland. Sixty-five per cent of males diagnosed in 1995 were infected abroad, 51% in Russia (1). Most of the cases in 1995 were found in southern Finland or in the south east near the Russian border (2). One cluster of 30 cases was discovered in the central part of Finland, in the city of Tampere. The origins of this local outbreak were three males, who acquired the infection in Russia.

Travel to St Petersburg and to neighbouring areas for business and for pleasure has increased remarkably since the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1995, the incidence of syphilis in Russia was 86 times higher (172/100 000) than in Finland (2/100 000) and is increasing (twofold during 1994­95). In 1995, 255 000 cases of syphilis were reported in the Russian Federation. In St Petersburg the incidence of syphilis (318/100 000; 15 000 reported cases) is among the highest in Russian administrative territories (2).

Women have been screened for syphilis infection in early pregnancy in Finland for 50 years. No congenital cases of syphilis have been reported since 1981. From 1991 to 1995, serum specimens from 332 400 pregnant women were tested. Positive results with non­treponemal antigens (RPR) were detected in specimens from 839 women; 73 of these specimens were also positive in the treponemal antigen test (treponemal haemagglutination). Old, treated syphilis infection was the cause of positivity in 54 cases. Undiagnosed, early (primary/secondary) syphilis was detected in the remaining 19 patients. In 1995, six early cases of syphilis were identified among pregnant women. Two women were Finnish, three Russian, and one was from Thailand (3).

This report stresses the need for timely surveillance of syphilis in order to target clinical and prevention services to people exposed to the risk of transmission.


1. National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland: 1995 Official statistics (unpublished)

2. State Committee for Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance. Infectious Disease Statistics of the Russian Federation. Moscow, Russia: 1996.

3. Koskela P. Syphilis screening in pregnant women. Kansanterveys 1996; (4):2­3. Finland


Back to Table of Contents
en es fr pt

The publisher’s policy on data collection and use of cookies.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by authors contributing to Eurosurveillance do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) or the editorial team or the institutions with which the authors are affiliated. Neither ECDC nor any person acting on behalf of ECDC is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in this journal. The information provided on the Eurosurveillance site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Our website does not host any form of commercial advertisement. Except where otherwise stated, all manuscripts published after 1 January 2016 will be published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence. You are free to share and adapt the material, but you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the licence, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Eurosurveillance [ISSN] - ©2007-2016. All rights reserved

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.