Syphilis cases surge in Montana

Posted at 9:54 AM, Feb 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-04 11:54:21-05

HELENA — Montana saw record highs for syphilis cases in 2022 according to preliminary data from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“Syphilis is a systemic infection meaning it can affect your entire body and multiple organ systems,” says DPHHS STI/HIV/Viral Hepatitis Section Supervisor, Kristi Aklestad.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that is a bacterial infection. The number of cases in 2022 in Montana was the highest they’ve been since 1948, with 602 cases.

The highest percentage of cases by age was for those aged 26-30. And nearly all women diagnosed with syphilis were from 14-49 years old.

And in Lewis and Clark County, Lewis and Clark Public Health reports an almost 3-fold increase in the STI from 2020 to 2022.

There was also a rise in congenital syphilis, as well, with a 67% increase. This refers to syphilis cases that are passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy.

Congenital syphilis can affect newly born infants with such afflictions as jaundice, bone abnormalities, deafness, and more.

“...and really encourage all pregnant women to seek prenatal care. And their healthcare provider will test them for syphilis during their pregnancy, and then they can be treated and prevent this from happening to their infant,” says Aklestad.

Practicing safe and protected sex as well as getting regularly tested can mitigate your risk.

Thankfully, getting rid of this STI is relatively easy. A dose or multiple doses of penicillin have been known to help clear up the STI. But it’s important to talk to your doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment procedure.