Syphilis Is Rising in the U.S. Here’s What to Know About the Sexually Transmitted Infection
exually transmitted infections are rising in the U.S.—particularly syphilis, which increased by 26% from 2020 to 2021, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in September.
Especially troubling is a 24% rise during that time period of congenital syphilis, which infects fetuses in the womb and can cause birth defects in or even kill infants.
Public-health clinics, where people often get STI tests, are chronically underfunded in the U.S.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse, since under-staffed public-health clinics redirected resources to cope with the outbreak.
Given that syphilis has had tests and treatments for decades, says Hook, the fact that it keeps resurging “is a marker that we’re doing something wrong.”.
During these two stages, syphilis is highly contagious and can be spread through kissing and vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Without treatment, syphilis can cause harm years or even decades later, damaging the nervous system, the brain, and the heart, Park says.
Even when it doesn’t cause symptoms for years or even decades, “it’s still multiplying and causing damage,” she says.