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Syphilis cases rise in Alaskan population centers

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

A marked rise in syphilis cases has been tracked in Alaskan cities like Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Juneau and Fairbanks. The rates of the disease are predominately in men who live in the region with a median age of 35.

Urban populations with syphilis
Between January 2011 and June 2013, nearly 50 cases of syphilis were reported to the Alaska Department of Health. These cases were all in the categories of adult primary, secondary and early latent syphilis. Eighty-five percent of the cases of the sexually transmitted disease were in men, and 80 percent of those cases were in men who have sex with men. There were seven cases of syphilis in women in the group, according to KDLG.

To help fight the outbreak, the state's health department tracked sexual partners of those diagnosed with the disease and urged them to have STD testing. Early STD tests can allow for treatment to begin, which reduces the adverse side effects of the disease.

Syphilis cases
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be spread through sexual contact between the genitals, mouth and anus. Syphilis infections generally begin as a painless sore on the affected area. After this stage, it can be difficult to track the disease, since it can often lie dormant for decades. However, if left untreated, the disease can progress into later stages, where it can severely damage the heart, lungs and brain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The primary stage of syphilis is the painless sore. Many people do not notice it, as it is small and heals on its own within several weeks. Though it is easy to miss the disease by a visual inspection, a lab test online can show whether the disease is present.

Secondary syphilis can include a body-wide rash that begins on the trunk. This rash can spread across the entire body, including the palms and the soles of feet. Often painless, this stage of the disease's progression may include warts as well. After this stage, the disease can become latent.

In the tertiary stage of syphilis, which occurs in 15 to 30 percent of cases, the disease can spread to damage many parts of the body, ranging from the brain to the nervous system. These problems can occur years after the initial infection.

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