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Annual MDH report shows continued rise in syphilis cases

Cases of Syphilis not only increased in Minnesota in 2021, but also across the country, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

MINNEAPOLIS — Editor's Note: The video above originally aired on August 28, 2018.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says syphilis cases continued to climb to near-historic levels over the past year in Minnesota.

MDH's annual report shows the sharp rise in syphilis follows an upward trend among all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the state, dating back to at least 2019.

The increase not only mirrors a state trend, but a national one as well, affecting all communities, health officials said.

Inside Minnesota though, the annual report notes there is special concern over the syphilis outbreak in the Duluth area.

MDH reported 1,457 cases last year, which was a 33% increase from 2020.

“Fifteen cases of congenital syphilis (CS) in infants were also reported in 2021,” a 115% increase, the report said.

CS occurs when a pregnant woman passes syphilis to a newborn child.

“CS can cause low birth weight, harm, or death to an infant if not treated. It is preventable when it’s caught early,” said Christine Jones, the STD and HIV section manager at MN Department of Health. “We are encouraging people to get tested regularly for STDs, especially if they are pregnant.”

Health officials say that testing can prevent the spread of syphilis, CS and other STDs, and say antibiotic treatment, testing and sex education are some ways to protect oneself.

“People need to know they can protect themselves and their infants by consistently using condoms and by getting tested for syphilis and other STDs, and if positive, by getting treatment and informing their sexual partners.,” MDH Medical Director Dr. Ruth Lynfield said.

The following are other key findings from the 2021 report:

  • Chlamydia remained the number one reported STD in the state, with 22,578 cases reported, a 3% increase compared to 2020. Most of the cases (59%) occurred in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. One in three cases occurred in Greater Minnesota, with at least two cases reported in every county in Minnesota.
  • Gonorrhea remained the second most reported STD in Minnesota, with 9,671 cases reported in 2021, a 5% decrease. This follows a substantial increase in 2020.

Overall, STDs continue to increase to near-historic levels. In 2020, MDH reported 33,706 STD cases — compared to 33,245 cases in 2020 — a 1% increase.

For more information, visit the MDH website for statistics and treatment guidelines.

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