Why Is This Important?Syphilis is a complex sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium ''Treponema pallidum'' (spp. ''pallidum''). The initial stage (primary syphilis) is characterized by a highly infectious painless open sore, called a chancre, at the site of infection. Chancres occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with the chancre. Sexual transmission can also occur during the secondary stage of syphilis. An infant can acquire syphilis through the placenta if the mother is infected.
In later stages of the disease, the bacteria move throughout the body, damaging many organs over time. The open nature of the syphilitic sores makes it easier to acquire HIV, if exposed, or to transmit the virus, if infected. Public health intervention and education measures are crucial in eliminating syphilis.
Primary and Secondary Syphilis, Utah and U.S., 1994-2018
- Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology
- Population Estimates: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) through a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau, IBIS Version 2018
- National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Data NotesRates were calculated by dividing the number of cases for each year by the total population within that year and multiplying by 100,000.
Risk FactorsRisk factors for sexually transmitted diseases include:
* sexual activity among young adults 25 and younger
* multiple sex partners
* prior history of STDs
* unprotected sex
* sexual contact with prostitutes (male or female)
* illicit drug use[[br]]
Those who fall within one or more of these categories should be tested for STDs in regular intervals. Sites of primary syphilis infection may include penis, rectum, anus, vagina, cervix, vulva, or mouth.
How Are We Doing?In 2018, 169 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis were diagnosed and reported in Utah. Seventy-seven of the cases were primary syphilis and ninety-two cases were secondary syphilis. The rate for P&S syphilis in 2018 was 5.3 cases per 100,000 persons, a 39.5% increase from the rate of 3.8 cases per 100,000 persons reported in 2017. P&S syphilis rates have increased from 2006 until 2018, with decreases in 2011 and 2014, 78.3% and 37.0% respectively.
During 2018, 95.3% of P&S syphilis cases were diagnosed among residents within the Wasatch Front (Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, and Weber Counties); which is consistent with recent years. Salt Lake County Health District had the highest rate of P&S syphilis at 10.5 cases per 100,000 persons.
P&S syphilis cases were primarily diagnosed among men during 2018 at a rate of 10.0 cases per 100,000 male persons. Males between the ages of 25-29 years actually experienced the highest rates in 2018 (28.4 cases per 100,000 people). Ten females were diagnosed with P&S syphilis in 2018. Only 42 females have been reported with P&S syphilis from 2000-2018.
During 2018, the P&S syphilis cases were diagnosed primarily among White, non-Hispanic individuals (63.3%) followed by Hispanics (25.4%).
What Is Being Done?Persons who test positive for syphilis are confidentially interviewed by a local public health nurse to educate the patient, ensure proper treatment, and to obtain sexual partner information for follow-up. This process potentially prevents those diseases reported from being spread and from the patient becoming reinfected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for testing, treatment, and follow-up are adhered to by the Utah Department of Health and the local health departments.
The Utah Department of Health Communicable Disease Prevention Program, along with local health departments, currently provides STD presentations upon request to a variety of organizations, agencies, and facilities.
Healthy People Objective: Reduce sustained domestic transmission of primary and secondary syphilisU.S. Target: Not applicable, see subobjectives in this category
Date Indicator Content Last Updated: 10/26/2019