The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced this Tuesday that more screening for syphilis is necessary among the population that has higher risks of infection. The federal agency carried out a study that was published online in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).
According to the paper, the infection rate has increased since 2005, year in which the agency last updated the measures to take against the disease. The researchers said that in a period of nine years, reported cases increased 3 to 4 times in the United States.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, and it is also known as “the great imitator” because its symptoms are very similar to those of other illnesses. It is reported to have four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. In its first stages, a doctor can solve the problem with a simple treatment that includes the use of antibiotics. However, if a person is negligent or oblivious about the problem, the situation can get worse in a couple of years.
The most common and famous symptom of the disease is the chancre, which is visible damage on the skin. It looks like a much worse version of chicken pots, and it first appears on the genitals.
When the problem is not treated, people have reported developing meningitis, dementia and in 2013, around 113,000 people died from complications associated with syphilis.
The government is looking for a solution
According to the USPSTF’s study, in 2005, there were around 5,000 reported cases in the United States, but by 2014, they rose up to 20,000. In response to this, the federal agency says that people who are at high risk of picking up the disease need to go through a screening process. This group includes sex workers, men that have sex with men, and people with multiple sexual partners. The final objective is to identify individuals with the problem and provide them with proper treatment. However, the agency said nothing about mass testing programs, so people will have to rely on medical centers.
“The USPSTF found convincing evidence that screening for syphilis infection in asymptomatic, nonpregnant persons at increased risk for infection provides substantial benefit. Accurate screening tests are available to identify syphilis infection in populations at increased risk. Effective treatment with antibiotics can prevent progression to late-stage disease, with small associated harms, providing an overall substantial health benefit.” The paper reads.
It is important to note that these new announcement does not include infected pregnant women. In 2009, the USPSTF updated the standard measurements and treatments for these particular cases.
It is easy to prevent
The problem is still easy to fix, there were 20,000 cases reported in 2014 and current U.S. population is estimated to be around 320 million and awareness is necessary. People that match the criteria for the population with high risk of infection should attend a medical center for a syphilis test; it is free in a lot of states. Also, they have to be extra alert if they see something weird on their skin, especially in their genitals. The use of condoms virtually reduces the chances of infection to 0, but the most efficient way is still not engaging in sexual intercourse with an infected person.