The rate of syphilis cases in Indiana is increasing at an alarming rate.
The Indiana State Department of Health says there was a 70 percent jump in syphilis cases from 2014 to 2015. That mirrors what’s happening across the country. The Centers for Disease Control says national rates for the sexually transmitted infection reached their highest in 20 years in 2014.
The State Department of Health is looking into what’s causing the sharp increase.
“We’re going back and reviewing case data to determine if there is something here in Indiana, a particular factor that could be contributing,” says State Epidemiologist Pam Pontones.
Indiana saw 168 cases of primary and secondary syphilis and 129 cases of early latent syphilis in 2014. That’s compared to 285 cases of primary and secondary syphilis and 220 cases of early latent syphilis in 2015.
Syphilis is spread by skin-to-skin contact and unprotected sex.
Beth Meyerson is the co-director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention. She says the rise in cases is evidence primary care physicians aren’t properly prepared for the screening and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
“We’ve often relied upon educate the public as the solution, but really the burden needs to be on the healthcare system now,” Meyerson says. “We’ve proven that we just don’t know how to do what we’re supposed to do.”
Meyerson says more physicians need to be addressing sexual health through routine screenings and conversations with patients.