What's that sore? DHHS reports syphilis outbreak in NH
CONCORD — The Department of Health and Human Services is warning New Hampshire residents that the state is experiencing a syphilis outbreak. The number of cases so far in 2017 have doubled previous years.
DHHS says from January through May there have been 42 reported cases of the sexually transmitted disease, with 60 percent of those cases reported in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties. Typically, the average for the same months is just 20 cases.
From 2012-16, the average at the end of the year was 80 diagnosed cases in the state. DHHS says the outbreak is consistent with national trends, mainly seen in men under 40 and in men who have sex with other men.
State epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said syphilis can be easily treated with the right antibiotics but left untreated can have serious health consequences, especially for pregnant women. An infected pregnant woman can pass the disease to her unborn baby, which can be life-threatening for the infant.
“Syphilis was close to being eliminated in the United States back in 2000, but over the last decade it has been making a resurgence," Chan said. "Unfortunately, New Hampshire is not immune to the impact of increasing STDs.”
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services recommends everyone who is sexually active to get tested for STDs. Pregnant woman also should be routinely tested.
Syphilis has four stages: primary, secondary, latent and tertiary. In the first stages, an infected person may get sores at the original site of infection. The disease can be transmitted through vaginal, oral and anal sex. Secondary symptoms include a skin rash, swollen lymph nodes and fever. Syphilis also can cause a central nervous system or eye infection at any stage of disease.
DHHS recommends prevention practices such as abstinence, getting tested before beginning a sexual relationship with a new partner, limiting the number of sex partners and using condoms every time.
For more information on syphilis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.