For the second time in as many days, a Texas locality is issuing a “syphilis alert” due to increases in reported cases of the sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Treponema pallidum spirochete/CDC

The City of Amarillo’s Department of Public Heath has received reports of 31 cases of syphilis since the beginning of 2016. In 2015, 47 cases of syphilis were reported, reflecting an increase from 2014.

Syphilis is a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) that can cause serious long-term complications if not treated. For women, it can cause problems during pregnancy and for the newborn. Syphilis may also increase the risk of HIV infection.

A symptom of syphilis is a painless sore, which will go away without treatment. Even though the sore goes away, the infection remains and must be treated. Additional symptoms include a non-itchy rash, typically on the palms of hands and soles of feet but may include the entire body, and unexplained hair loss. Syphilis is easily treated.

LISTEN: Fred Wyand, the Director of Communications for the American Sexual Health Association discusses syphilis

Risk factors for syphilis include: Unprotected sex (anal, oral and vaginal sex), anonymous sex (utilizing social media, apps and websites to locate partners) and IV drug use.

Protect yourself by: Testing regularly for STIs, reducing your number of sex partners and by using condoms for every sexual encounter  (condoms are available free of charge at the Public Health department).

Free and confidential testing is available by appointment at the City of Amarillo Department of Public Health, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, hours have been expanded from Monday, May 2 through Friday, May 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photo ID is required for the tests.