Syphilis infections are on the rise in Alaska, with the number of cases reported in the first three months of 2018 nearly matching the number of syphilis cases reported for all of 2017.
As of March 14, there have been 20 confirmed and two probable cases of syphilis statewide, according to the Alaska Department of Public Health and Social Service Section of Epidemiology.
In 2017, 21 cases were reported by the end of the year. There were 20 reported cases annually in both 2015 and 2016.
A sexually transmitted infection, syphilis can cause serious long-term health problems if not treated.
Approximately 80 percent of state cases in 2018 were reported in Anchorage. The Kenai Peninsula has not seen any lab-confirmed cases of syphilis so far this year, Leslie Felts, nurse manager for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, said.
The division of public health advocates for safe sex practices to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, including condom use or abstinence, Felts said.
Nationally, syphilis cases are on the uptick, with a 17.6 percent increase in primary and secondary syphilis rates between 2015 and 2016, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.