The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently reported that during 2021, the state (outside of Philadelphia) experienced a 28% increase in early syphilis—going from 1,105 cases reported in 2020 to 1,418 cases reported in 2021. The latest numbers are the highest infection rates of early syphilis cases in more than 30 years.
Of the early syphilis cases reported in women, 90% were of child-bearing age—which presents a unique danger of congenital syphilis, where the infection can be passed on from mother to child during pregnancy.
As a result, health officials are strongly encouraging all sexually active men and women to get tested.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Syphilis can also be spread during pregnancy to the unborn child, and by sharing intravenous needles. Syphilis is easily cured if caught in the early stages of infection but, because symptoms can be mild, it’s possible to have it and not know. Testing is the only way to verify infection.
Ask your doctor about getting tested for syphilis. If you don’t have a doctor or prefer a nearby confidential clinic, enter your zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ (to refine your search, select “syphilis testing” under “filter results”). Most testing clinics are free.
To find out more about syphilis, you can go to the CDC information page at https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm.