Syphilis has increased by 1,500 % in Oregon since 2007. Public health officials announced the disturbing trend after Lincoln County reported its 12th case this year.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. The disease has four stages starting with a single painless sore on the mouth or genitals. This time is the most infectious. The secondary stage includes rashes and swollen lymph nodes. Latent syphilis is a period of no symptoms but the final stage involves dementia and, eventually, death.
Lincoln County health officers are concerned with the steady increase in syphilis. More than half of the new cases have occurred in women of childbearing age.
Dr. Sean Schafer is an infectious disease expert with the Oregon Health Authority.
Schafer: “It can cause the death of newborns or fetuses when pregnant women get infected and that’s one of the more alarming trends in both Lincoln County and statewide.”
Schafer says all pregnant women and people with risk factors like sex work or illicit drug use should be tested for syphilis whether or not symptoms are present.