Onondaga County sees spike in syphilis cases; People at risk are invited to get tested


Syracuse, New York – Onondaga County has seen a sudden increase in syphilis cases and is urging people to get tested if they are at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

There have been 28 cases of syphilis in the first three months of 2021. This equates to the total number of cases the county has seen for all of 2020.

“Although we are focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot forget other public health issues in our community, such as this recent increase in syphilis cases,” said Dr Indu Gupta , county health commissioner, in a press release.

Cases of syphilis have increased across the country over the past 20 years. There were nearly 130,000 cases nationwide in 2019, according to The data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics if caught early. It may not cause symptoms initially, but can lead to very serious illness and death if left untreated.

Gupta said the increase can affect partners of those infected and their unborn children if they are pregnant. The county has seen an increase in the number of women with syphilis in recent years.

A pregnant woman with syphilis can pass it on to her unborn baby, which can lead to serious health problems and even death to the baby.

Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a syphilis sore, usually through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. People using condoms can get syphilis if the condom does not fully cover the exposed areas.

Signs of syphilis may include a painless sore or ulcer in the mouth or genitals, and generalized illness with fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. More serious signs of syphilis can include meningitis or eye infections.

The test is recommended for:

  • Men who have sex with men outside of a monogamous relationship
  • HIV positive people
  • Pregnant women
  • Sex workers
  • People who have anonymous sex partners
  • Men under 25 incarcerated in the past year

Anyone who thinks they have been exposed should call their health care provider.

People without providers can get tested if they make an appointment at the Onondaga County Health Department STD Center in the County Civic Center.

The STD Center offers a syphilis clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 15, April 22, April 29 and May 6.

Appointments are required. To make an appointment, call (315) 435-3236.

James T. Mulder covers health and higher education. Got a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or [email protected]

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