The Kenai Public Health Center is seen on a cloudy Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Public Health Center is seen on a cloudy Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Syphilis cases remained high in 2022

Last year, 424 cases of syphilis were reported

In a syphilis update published as part of the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bulletin, state health officials say that rates of syphilis in Alaska remain high, and have “increased dramatically since 2018.”

The update includes data collected throughout 2022. Last year, 424 cases of syphilis were reported. For the first time since numbers began to rise in 2018, 2022’s count doesn’t represent a year-over-year increase, falling below 2021’s 447.

The bulletin says “cases remained elevated during 2022.”

Cases are distributed almost evenly between men and women, most widely among people who identify as heterosexual and almost entirely among people who identify as cisgender. Most cases were also identified within “urban communities.”

The bulletin says that Alaska has seen a “sharp rise” in cases among “women of reproductive age,” which prompted increased guidance and recommendations for testing pregnant people for syphilis earlier this year.

The Department continues to recommend testing for people with suspected syphilis and other comprehensive screening for sexually transmitted infections.

For those at high risk, who have multiple sexual partners or anonymous sexual partners, the recommendation by health officials is to get tested as often as every three months.

​​Treatment and screening for syphilis is available at public health centers around the state.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection spread primarily through sexual contact. The disease typically starts as a painless sore that may not be noticed at first, and spreads from person to person via skin or mucous membrane contact with these sores. The disease is easily curable and early treatment after exposure can prevent infection. When left untreated, however, syphilis can affect the heart, brain and other organs in the body.

To find a location near you that provides STD testing, visit gettested.cdc.gov.

For more information about Alaska’s syphilis outbreak, visit std.dhss.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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