The Indiana State Department of Health reported Monday that the state has experienced a significant increase in syphilis cases, prompting them to urge healthcare providers to educate patients about their risks of syphilis and to be aggressive about testing and treatment.

Treponema pallidum spirochetes in darkfield exam/CDC
Treponema pallidum spirochetes in darkfield exam/CDC

“Indiana experienced a 70 percent increase in syphilis cases between 2014 and 2015,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “We are continuing to see an increase this year and we are working closely with local health officials and healthcare providers to make sure patients are getting tested and receive treatment.”

In 2014, Indiana reported 168 cases of primary and secondary syphilis and 129 cases of early latent syphilis. In 2015, Indiana reported 285 cases of primary and secondary and 220 cases of early latent syphilis.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. is seeing similar increases nationally.

Healthcare providers should talk with their patients about any possible exposures to early syphilis, as well as known risk factors. Providers should recommend testing for syphilis, HIV and other STDs and offer preventive treatment to anyone exposed to a case of early syphilis to reduce the chance of infection and the spread of disease. All those diagnosed with infectious syphilis need immediate treatment.​

Indiana law requires physicians to test all women for syphilis when they become pregnant and to retest those at high risk for infection in the last trimester.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that is spread by direct, skin to skin contact during unprotected sex. Pregnant women who are infected can transmit it to their unborn babies.