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State health officials warn Indiana residents about rise in syphilis cases

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The number of syphilis cases is on the rise in Indiana. As a result, state health officials are urging health care providers to educate patients about the risks of the disease.

Syphilis is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during unprotected sex. Pregnant women who are infected can transmit it to their unborn babies.

Health officials say it is important to be aggressive about testing and treatment.

“Indiana experienced a 70 percent increase in syphilis cases between 2014 and 2015,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams. “We are continuing to see an increase this year and we are working closely with local health officials and healthcare providers to make sure patients are getting tested and receive treatment.”

In 2014, Indiana reported 168 cases of primary and secondary syphilis and 129 cases of early latent syphilis. In 2015, Indiana reported 285 cases of primary and secondary and 220 cases of early latent syphilis.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. is seeing similar increases nationally.

It's not just syphilis people should be worried about.

 

"Syphilis and HIV can actually infect at the same time. There could be a co-infection. So it's important for healthcare providers and patients to consider HIV testing as well," State Epidemiologist, Pam Pontones said.

Many doctors believe the increase could also be due to the lack of symptoms. Men are being hit the hardest with the disease and could be passing it on to women without knowing they have it.

"There is a certain percentage of men that are having sex with men that are having sex with women as well yes. A pretty high percentage. Maybe 30-50%," Community Health Infectious Disease Dr. Steve Norris said.

The Indiana State Department of Health is working with the CDC and other states to narrow down a cause of the rise in syphilis cases. The state will also investigate each syphilis case as another way to track to trend.