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The Arkansas Department of Health encourages Arkansans to get tested for syphilis



Little Rock, Arkansas — As cases drastically increase across the state, The Arkansas Department of Health is encouraging syphilis testing, prevention, and treatment.

According to the department, the disease is affecting women the most. There was a 164 percent increase overall in early syphilis cases and a 285 percent increase among women of reproductive ages, according to a press release from the ADH.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into clinical stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. There are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage that range from open sores, rash, and flu-like symptoms to long-term damage to the heart, brain, and other organs.

Jackson County leads the state with the most syphilis case rate with 174.3 cases per 100,000.

According to most healthcare providers, a top concern is a congenital syphilis which happens when a mother with syphilis passes the infection to her baby during pregnancy. Congenital syphilis is preventable by early detection of the infection and appropriate treatment prior to delivery. Untreated syphilis during pregnancy can lead to stillbirth, preterm delivery, and other congenital abnormalities.

Nine babies in Arkansas died before birth from 2017 to 2021, with an increase of 254 percent in congenital syphilis cases.

Healthcare providers in Arkansas are required to test all pregnant women at the first prenatal care visit and third trimester. According to ADH, local health units across the state offer testing at no charge and urge those who are not in a monogamous relationship to use protection to prevent a further spread of the disease.