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UW Medicine: King County sees ‘great increase’ in syphilis cases following national trend

Feb 16, 2024, 1:57 PM | Updated: 8:02 pm

syphilis...

A previous AHF billboard campaign offering a warning about the dangers of congenital syphilis with a link for the public to get information on testing and treatment at www.freeSTDcheck.org (Photo: Business Wire)

(Photo: Business Wire)

Seattle and King County are seeing dramatic hikes in syphilis cases, UW Medicine reports.

“We are seeing a great increase in the number of syphilis cases. In the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in women by 90% each year in the incidence of syphilis from 2020 to 2022,” Dr. Meena Ramchandani, an infectious diseases specialist at UW Medicine in Seattle, said in a news release. “With that increase in syphilis that we’re seeing in women and in persons who can become pregnant, we have this increase in congenital syphilis cases, and that’s a huge problem.”

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The increase follows a national trend. According to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 207,000 cases of syphilis were found in 2022 a nearly 80% increase since 2018.

Syphilis transmission is most prominent among men who have sex with men, but women are contracting the infection with increasing frequency, Ramchandani said in the release.

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Congenital syphilis occurs during pregnancy when a mother with syphilis passes the infection to her fetus. Risks from congenital syphilis include miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, brain and nerve problems or deformed bones. There were over 3,700 cases of congenital syphilis in the United States in 2022, the CDC reports.

“I think that there needs to be increased awareness and increased testing, because syphilis is affecting a lot of populations,” she said.  As for treatment, “Penicillin is the drug of choice, and thankfully syphilis is still susceptible to penicillin. And so, formulas of penicillin can be used to treat and cure syphilis,” Ramchandani said.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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UW Medicine: King County sees ‘great increase’ in syphilis cases following national trend