Arizona is facing an outbreak of syphilis, with the biggest increase of cases in women and newborns. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has been working with partners on strategies to increase early detection and treatment, especially for pregnant women, to reduce the potentially devastating health effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the 2017 STD Surveillance Report this week, which shows increased rates of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea nationwide. The biggest increase in any category is for congenital syphilis, which is when the disease is passed from pregnant mother to her unborn baby.

Since January 2015, the monthly average of female syphilis cases in Arizona has increased 253%, from 19 to 67 cases per month. As a result, the number of babies born with syphilis has more than doubled. Of the 36 babies born with syphilis so far in 2018, six have died.

Syphilis symptoms can include: painless lesion(s), fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, patchy hair loss, non-itchy skin rash, or a rash on the bottoms of feet and palms of hands. Untreated syphilis can damage your brain, nerves, eyes, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. It can also lead to death.

Women who are pregnant should talk to their medical provider about getting tested for syphilis in the first and third trimester, and at delivery. Everyone should talk to their partner(s) about testing and using condoms.

ADHS is urging all community members to reduce their risk of exposure to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), including HIV, by using condoms when having any type of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and getting tested and treated for STDs. Clinics across Arizona offer testing.

If you suspect you have syphilis or need more information, contact your doctor, your local health department, or the ADHS STD Control Program at [email protected] or 602-364-4571.