A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the rise of STDs nationwide broke a new record for the fifth consecutive year. KUNR’s Anh Gray reports Nevada continues to top the list for the highest rate of primary and secondary syphilis.
A syphilis infection has four stages (primary, secondary, latent and tertiary), and each is marked by different symptoms. Jennifer Howell is a sexual health expert with the Washoe County Health District. She says that during the primary stage, a person typically gets a sore or sores at the original site of infection.
“They’re very, very infectious, but they don’t hurt. And if you were to look at a picture of them, you would think, ‘oh my gosh, that has got to be the most painful thing ever,’ but it's not,” explained Howell. “So if it’s in a place where somebody can’t see it—the mouth, the vagina, rectally—nobody’s going to know it’s there. Or, if a partner doesn’t see it and let them know it’s there.”
Nevada also ranks 2nd in the nation for congenital syphilis. Howell explains that unless people get tested and treated for the disease, pregnant women can pass it along to their unborn child.
“So now because we have had the increase of syphilis here, so then came the congenital cases,” Howell said, “because many women aren’t going to tell us until they have prenatal care and they go and do their first test.”
Congenital syphilis may also lead to miscarriage and premature birth. According to the CDC, up to 40% of babies born to untreated mothers with syphilis may be stillborn or die from the infection as a newborn.
The state also has high cases of other STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea.