State health officials on high alert following increased syphilis cases in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov 2, 2015)-- State and local health officials are on high alert after an alarming increase in Indiana syphilis cases. Now healthcare providers are urged to talk to patients about their risk and to be aggressive with testing and treatment.

It's a centuries-old sexually transmitted disease that spread rampantly and eventually died down, but now syphilis is back.

"It's making a comeback everywhere. Metropolitan areas whether it's Indiana, Chicago, L.A., Houston. I mean syphilis is making a comeback across the United States," said Dr. Cherrell Triplett.

Syphilis is spread by direct skin to skin contact during unprotected sex. From January to October this year the Indiana State Department of Health says there have been 357 early syphilis cases. That's a nearly 53 percent increase from that same time period last year.

"It's really undetermined kind of what's causing the come back. There have been a lot of cases with men having sex with men but there's been just as many heterosexual cases as well," said Triplett.

Syphilis affects people in three stages if not treated. It begins with a painless sore on the genitals that can go away in three to six weeks. But if left untreated the STD can evolve into symptoms with deadly consequences.

"People can develop blindness, deafness, they can have seizures they can die from syphilis, they can become paralyzed because of the neurological stages of syphilis," said Triplett.

The health department says the increase is so alarming because syphilis is preventable and curable with an antibiotic. Syphilis is most infectious in its primary and secondary stages, but anyone with untreated syphilis for less than a year can transmit the infection.