Clusters of syphilis reported in North Dakota
BISMARCK, N.D. – The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) has received reports showing multiple clusters of people with syphilis across the state, most recently in Stark and Cass Counties. The increase in reports included infections among pregnant women, which increases the risk for syphilis among newborn infants, a condition called congenital syphilis that could result in malformations or stillbirth.
Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), continues to be a major health threat in the United States and can be transmitted through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness, brain damage, heart problems and even death. A growing risk factor for these infections is illicit drug use, primarily methamphetamine, which can promote risky sexual behavior. In 2019, there have been 72 confirmed reports of people with syphilis in North Dakota—25 of the cases have been women. Of those women, seven have been pregnant.
“Many of these infections among women were found during a routine pregnancy screening,” said Shari Renton, epidemiologist. “We are urging women who are pregnant to seek prenatal care and receive syphilis testing. Congenital syphilis can be prevented through prompt treatment.”
The NDDoH is also encouraging sexually active women of childbearing age (14-50 years) and their sex partners be tested for syphilis and other STDs. The most effective way to reduce the risk of STD infection is to abstain from sexual activity or be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship between partners who have been tested and are not infected. Condoms and other barriers such as dental dams, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the spread of STDs during oral, vaginal and anal sex. Limiting the number of sexual partners also reduces the risk of becoming infected with an STD. Infected individuals and all sexual partners should be treated immediately to prevent the spread of infection.
To take the NDDoH risk assessment survey to help identify your STD risk, visit ndhealth.gov/hiv/knowyourrisk/. For questions or more information, visit ndhealth.gov/std or contact the NDDoH STD program at 701-328-2378 or 800-472-2180.