NewsLocal News


Jump in syphilis cases has health officials on alert

Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 19:09:01-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Health officials in Kansas City are warning of a 71 percent jump in syphilis cases in the past year.

The Kansas City, Missouri Health Department's Division of Communicable Disease Prevention and Public Health Preparedness says members are maximizing their limited resources to reduce the case of sexually transmitted diseases.

"We have to be reactive," Tiffany Wilkinson, a senior public health manager at the department said. "Unfortunately, we're not as proactive as we'd like."

Sexually transmitted diseases continue to trend upward as the city is already in the midst of a syphilis outbreak.

"We're seeing more cases move into the heterosexual community," Wilkinson said.

The outbreak began in 2013, but this past year, the number of syphilis cases jumped 71 percent from the previous year.

"Sometimes a doctors may not think to test a married partner for syphilis, unfortunately sometimes partners aren't necessarily having sex with their spouse," Wilkinson said.

There's also been an increase of syphilis transmitted from pregnant women to their children.

"If it goes untreated, there is a 40 percent risk to that child for death or other severe consequences," Wilkinson said.

Some of the symptoms associated with the infection:
- Painless sores that doctors call a "chancre" on the skin.
- Rash that develops on the palms of your hands, on the bottom of your feet or throughout the body
- Fever and swollen lymph glands

"Symptoms may come and go and may not develop immediately after they've been exposed," Wilkinson said.

Syphilis is curable with a strong form of antibiotics, but if a person is exposed to it again they can get re-infected.

"It's really important that everyone that's having unprotected sex and you don't know the status of your other sex partner to get tested and treated," Wilkinson said.