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Health Alert: Syphilis Cases on the Increase




In 2014, Onondaga County had the highest rate of syphilis cases in Central New York. Between the years 2008 and 2014, the number of syphilis cases increased by 1,800%.


  • For the past 7 years, the number of syphilis cases has gone up each year in Onondaga County.


  • The majority of these syphilis cases occur in men.  


  • 5% of syphilis infections occur in women.


Year Total Cases
2008 3
2009 4
2010 10
2011 14
2012 15
2013 29
2014 56

“Syphilis was thought to have been nearly eliminated from U.S. in 2000, but has re-emerged at a rapid pace in Onondaga County,” said Onondaga County Health Commissioner Indu Gupta, MD. “It is of a great concern to us because undiagnosed and untreated syphilis can result in many long term multisystem complications for the affected person including infant mortality and congenital syphilis. But all of this is completely preventable.”


Syphilis is a complex disease that is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected individual. Patients may not realize they have syphilis because the signs and symptoms resemble those of other common infections and diseases.


With Primary Syphilis, the initial sign is often a painless chancre that occurs on the body at the point of infection. Secondary syphilis symptoms may include rashes on the hands and feet or other parts of the body. After about a year, untreated syphilis usually goes into a dormant phase where no symptoms occur for several years. Thereafter, the illness can return with serious consequences.


Early syphilis is of particular concern because of serious health problems that can develop in untreated patients and the strong connection between syphilis and the transmission of HIV. Of equal concern is that untreated syphilis in pregnant women can lead to serious birth defects and even death of an unborn baby. All persons with syphilis and individuals who may have been exposed to them, require immediate medical assessment and treatment.