Southwest District Health is encouraging residents to get tested for syphilis as the district sees an increase in cases in the region.
Rates of syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections has increased this year, as 21 syphilis cases in 2020 have been identified, according to SWDH. In 2019, just 15 cases were identified, according to SWDH. Almost half of the reported cases this year have been in women, higher than last year when just 20% of infections were in females.
SWDH is encouraging healthcare providers to inquire about patient's sexual history, asses their risk for exposure, discuss risk reduction strategies and test patients for STIs.
Symptoms of syphilis can include:
- Any ano/genital or oral lesion, especially indurated and minimally painful ulcers
- Any unexplained rash, especially with palmar or plantar involvement
- Unexplained lymphadenopathy
- Unexplained ocular disease (i.e., uveitis, panuveitis, diminished visual acuity, blindness, optic neuropathy, interstitial keratitis, anterior uveitis, retinal vasculitis)
Anyone at an increased risk for syphilis include sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) and persons living with HIV (PLWHIV). Individuals at increased risk should be screened for syphilis at least annually. Additional risk factors observed in recent cases include methamphetamine use, partner with methamphetamine use, anonymous partners and/or multiple partners of unknown risk.
Documented syphilis cases should be offered HIV testing, even if they have previously tested negative. Genital sores caused by syphilis make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually. There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to that infection when syphilis is present.