The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has detected an alarming increase in reported syphilis cases across Wyoming, especially in Fremont County Syphilis is primarily transmitted through sex without a condom.
There have been 34 Wyoming cases reported so far in 2018, which represents a 36 percent increase over last year’s total for the entire year. With a reported 38 percent of this year’s cases, Fremont County is an area of current concern.
“Because of this increase, the department recently sent an alert to healthcare providers across the state encouraging them to promote testing and treatment with patients,” said Courtney Smith, Communicable Disease Surveillance Program Manager with WDH.
Having multiple sex partners, sex without a condom, or anonymous sex partners are risks connected with this recent increase.
Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. If left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious complications such as dementia, blindness, numbness, paralysis and death.
Untreated syphilis can be passed on from a mother to her baby during pregnancy and cause miscarriage, stillbirth or health problems for the baby after birth. Nationally, there has been a recent increase in the number of babies born with syphilis. “Of course, that is something we want to prevent in Wyoming,” Smith said. “Every woman who is having a baby should be screened at least once for syphilis during her pregnancy.”
“Some people who get syphilis may notice a painless sore, called a chancre, that eventually goes away on its own, a rash on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet, hair loss or fever,” Smith said. “Others may not notice any symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get yourself tested.”
Actions recommended by WDH include abstinence, limiting the number of partners, correct and consistent condom use and getting tested before starting a new sexual relationship.
To learn more about the risk behaviors for syphilis infection, visit www.knowyo.org or contact a medical professional. The www.knowyo.org site provides voucher codes for no or low-cost syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and hepatitis testing.
Genital sores caused by syphilis also make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection. “There is an estimated two- to five-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed when syphilis is present,” Smith said. “Fortunately, the same steps you can take to decrease your risk of syphilis infection can also reduce your risk for HIV and other STDs.”