MSDH announces an increase in syphilis. Source: Raycom Image Bank
MISSISSIPPI (Mississippi News Now) -
Syphilis rates are on the rise in Mississippi and throughout the U.S., with the number of cases steadily increasing for the past 15 or more years.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was an 18 percent increase nationally in cases of early syphilis from 2015 to 2016 and a 32 percent increase in Mississippi during the same time frame.
“We want to make sure providers and the public are aware that we have seen recent increases in syphilis in Mississippi,” said Dr. Paul Byers, State Epidemiologist for the Mississippi State Department of Health. “Persons infected with syphilis may not have obvious symptoms, so screening for infection and appropriate treatment are essential. Persons at higher risk for syphilis and all pregnant women should be screened for infection routinely and treated with antibiotics when infection is identified.”
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum. It mainly spreads by sexual contact but may also be transmitted by infected mothers to their unborn children. It can lead to nervous system disorders such as blindness, insanity or paralysis if it is left untreated.
For 2016, most of the 822 cases of early syphilis reported in Mississippi occurred in men, and of the male cases, 70 percent were in men who have sex with men. Individuals aged 20-29 years accounted for 52 percent of all cases reported in Mississippi and 36 percent of the total cases in this age group were in African American men.
Among cases reported in 2016, HIV co-infection was seen in 36 percent of patients. A person who has syphilis is three to five times more likely to be infected with and pass on HIV to partners.
The concern over this increase of syphilis is the focus of STD Awareness Month in April.
Testing for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases is free and confidential by appointment at any county health department.