Among the coronavirus, Alaska health officials are dealing with another outbreak – syphilis.
According to local media reports, the Department of Health and Human Services said that sexually transmitted diseases are at a high level throughout the country and in Alaska. The Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin on Syphilis, released on Thursday, says the number of sexually transmitted cases has doubled in 2019, and health officials are concerned that the numbers will reach similar levels in 2020.
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According to the bulletin, most cases of the increase were in heterosexual men and women. The increase in cases of women increases the risk of transmitting the infection to their children, officials said, adding that it “underscores the importance of STD screening during the initial prenatal visit, in the third trimester and during delivery to those at risk.”
“This is a reminder that there are other outbreaks in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that need our attention,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, in a statement to local television channel KTUU-2.
The outbreak of syphilis in Alaska was first announced in 2018. At that time, state epidemiologists reported 114 cases. But by 2019, the number of syphilis cases has risen to 242, or 112 percent.
Many factors contributed to the rise in the cases. These included methamphetamine and heroin use, homelessness and a history of imprisonment 12 months before the survey, according to the State Bulletin of Epidemiology.
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Local Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that STDs open up as little as possible, trying to prioritize patients with STD symptoms and high-risk groups, local offices said.
To reduce the spread of the disease, the agency advised Alaskans to take precautions, get tested regularly and seek treatment and notify their partner if they are positive, according to KTUU-2.