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Are We Prepared for the Resurgence of Syphilis?

Did you know that syphilis is now experiencing a resurgence in the U.S., including individuals over the age of 55? Syphilis is now so widespread that one of the biggest risk factors is geography, not behavior. According to the CDC, more than 70 per cent of the US population live in counties with high rates of the disease.


What is syphilis?


Syphilis is a multi-stage sexually transmitted infection (STI), and its symptoms can vary widely. In the primary stage, it often presents as a painless sore on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. As it progresses to the secondary stage, symptoms can include skin rashes, fever, swollen lymph glands, and fatigue. If left untreated, syphilis can enter a latent stage where symptoms disappear, only to potentially re-emerge in a more severe tertiary stage with possible damage to organs, neurological issues, or even death. It's crucial to seek medical attention if you suspect you've been exposed to syphilis. Learn More.


How is it contracted?


Syphilis is spread by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also spread from a mother with syphilis to her unborn baby. It’s important to note that syphilis cannot be contracted through casual contact with objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils. Learn More.


What is the cause of this surge in syphilis?


According to Dr Khalil Ghanem, syphilis expert at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, changing sexual habits have played a big role in the current epidemic. Other factors include reduced condom use and decreased testing and treatment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn More.

Below are news articles of interest on this topic. It is important to stay informed about our health and move beyond shame, embarrassment, or stigma that may prevent us from learning more, seeking help, and helping others.


News Clips

STDs have risen among adults 55 and older: CDC (A O’Connell-Domenech, The Hill, 03/29/24). CDC data show that cases of STDsare skyrocketing among older Americans. Researchers point to multiple reasons.


Ask a Doc: The sexual health checkup older adults don’t know they need (T Pasricha, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 03/31/24) STDs are rising among older adults who are often unaware of the need for screening.


Most syphilis cases ever reported in Lucas County in 2023 – TV News Segment (WTOL-CBS OH, 03/28/24) Lucas County, OH, had the highest-ever reported number of syphilis cases, mirroring national trends.

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