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Central District Health reports growing syphilis cases in Treasure Valley


Regional health officials are warning of a concerning increase in the number of syphilis cases in the Treasure Valley and the surrounding area.

Last year, Central District Health recorded about 160 cases of syphilis in Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties. That’s a 162% increase from 2018.

CDH epidemiologist Jessica McClenahan said it’s not as in your face as other sexually transmitted diseases.

“I think of chlamydia as the Canada goose that just won’t get out of the road and there’s like 17 babies there. Syphilis is a slow reproducer and it’s very sneaky,” said McClenahan. “Syphilis is the fox.”

It’s sneaky because a person might not show any symptoms while infected, or the symptoms that do show up can be mistaken for other conditions.

Those symptoms can vary depending on how long someone’s been infected, too and include sores, rashes, joint pain and swollen lymph nodes, according to CDH. It can cause long-term brain, organ or nervous system damage if left untreated.

Antibiotics can cure the infection, with early treatment being easier on the patient. People ages 26-45 in the health district had the highest number of cases, most of them male.

But epidemiologist Sarah Wright said all age groups have been seeing higher spread.

“Since Jan. 1, 2022, we have had cases from 15-87 years old. So, it’s not just in these typical larger groups always, which is why we think it’s important to increase screening,” Wright said.

CDH urges everyone to get tested for STDs regularly, especially those with new sexual partners, and to use condoms to help prevent transmission.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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