Syphilis is continuing to spread in St. Louis, and new cases of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) have more than doubled in the last few years.
According to Missouri health officials, syphilis cases have increased by 259% from 2015 to 2021. Local health departments became concerned in 2019 after they began seeing spikes year after year. In 2019, there was a 71% increase from 2018. While the number of syphilis cases in St. Louis decreased in 2020, they started climbing again in 2021. All the while, the reported numbers of other STIs stayed relatively steady.
Experts said the large local and statewide increases are dramatic, but not surprising. “We’re seeing rapid increases across demographics when it comes to syphilis cases,” Dr. Hilary Reno, medical director of the St. Louis County STI/HIV Prevention Training Center, said. “That’s adding up to these marked numbers.”
Initial symptoms of syphilis include a sore or rash that goes away after a few weeks, even without any treatment. In fact, many cases go undiagnosed and untreated. “Once someone actually gets syphilis, they may not know they have it right away,” Cunningham said. “So somebody can unfortunately have syphilis for years.”
It's important to note that every health issues may emerge without proper care with antibiotics, which can cure the disease. Anyone can get the STI, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. The best way to avoid spreading syphilis is to avoid unprotected sex, according to doctors.