The number of congenital syphilis cases in Japan this year has already set a new annual record high, according to data recently released by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

As of Oct. 4, the annual count stood at 32, surpassing the previous annual record of 23 cases, set in 2019.

Meanwhile, the overall number of syphilis cases in the country in 2023 came to 13,251 as of Nov. 19, topping the 2022 total of 13,228, which was the first figure above 10,000 since the current survey method was introduced in 1999.

By prefecture, 3,244 cases were reported in Tokyo, 1,760 in Osaka, 829 in Fukuoka, 751 in Aichi and 607 in Hokkaido.

While some people say that the current spread of syphilis is due to sexual intercourse between strangers who met through social media, the clear reason behind the spread has not yet been identified.

The disease is mainly transmitted through sexual contact. Those infected first develop sores on the genitals or mouth and then a rash all over the body. It is curable with early antibiotic treatment.

Congenital syphilis is transmitted from mother to baby via the placenta, and can cause intellectual, visual or hearing disabilities.

On its website, the Tokyo metropolitan government recommends that people with symptoms see a doctor, and notes that proper condom use is effective in reducing the risk of contracting syphilis.

Noting that congenital syphilis can lead to stillbirths and premature births and cause children to be born with disabilities, the Tokyo government calls on pregnant women to consult their doctors if they have any concerns.