(Health-NewsWire.Net, March 25, 2015 ) St. Louis, Mo. -- In the past three years, Portland has seen a significant increase in syphilis cases. Since 2012, the Portland metro area has had an average of around 240 new cases of syphilis each year. Prior to 2012, there was an average of 10 to 30 cases reported annually.
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This has prompted state public health officials to urge sexually active adults to get tested for this treatable bacterial infection on a regular basis.
This appears to be a nationwide trend, with the cases of syphilis on the rise throughout the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of infections reported in 2014 was 17,535, a 10 percent increase from 2013.
According to Multnomah County Health Department senior manager, Kim Toevs, "Nationally, there's been an increase in syphilis diagnoses but our increase has exceeded the national average."
Toevs reports that Portland health officials requested assistance from the CDC in 2014 in an effort to determine what was behind the increase. As a result, a group of public health officials, as well as behavioral and social scientists, were brought together to look into the issue.
Toevs reports the team found that some groups of sexually active bisexual and gay men had become less cautious about using protection due to the decreased fears of HIV transmission, as well as due to the majority of HIV-positive individuals having access to medications that decrease the risk of transmitting the virus.
Toev stated, "We've also found a link due to the increase of social media applications used to meet people online, (which is) true for heterosexuals and gays both. The additional points of connection with strangers they didn't know before, the more pathways there are to spread."
Toevs encourage both bisexual and gay men with multiple partners to get tested for syphilis at least every three months.
"Folks that are not at quite that risk should still test at least once a year," Toevs states.
Penicillin can be used to cure syphilis. However, if it is left untreated, it can result in neurological damage, blindness, hearing loss, and birth defects in children born to mothers infected with the disease. According to the CDC, half of the men nationwide that have been diagnosed with syphilis also have HIV.
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