ITHACA, N.Y.—The predictions were logged, and the results are in: sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the rise in the U.S. after years of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, the Tompkins County Department of Health (TCHD) is alerting the community to a steep rise in the number of reported syphilis cases. 

Tompkins County saw 22 cases of syphilis in 2019, 20 in 2020, and 22 in 2021. As 2022 approaches its halfway mark, the number of cases of syphilis in Tompkins County is also quickly approaching last year’s total. There have been 16 cases of syphilis detected in Tompkins County in the last five months according to the New York State Health Department.

Nationally, there was a 7% rise in syphilis cases in 2021 over 2019’s numbers, and a 10 percent rise in gonorrhea infections. Rates of sexually transmitted diseases had crested in 2019, on course with steady increases over the last ten years, and 2022 appears on track to continue that nationwide trend.

TCHD is pushing people to weigh the risks they may be engaging with that could lead to contracting syphilis and other STIs, and take precautionary measures.

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa released the statement, “We are advising the community of the importance of testing early and often for sexually transmitted infections and diseases, especially if you are at high-risk of contracting a STI or STD.”

High risk activity includes having sex without a condom, having anonymous sex, sex with multiple partners.

Syphilis appears as sores, rashes, and lesions, but insidiously, it can spread while undetected in someone infected with the disease. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, however if left untreated for years, the disease can wreck permanent damage on reproductive organs, particularly among women. It can also be passed onto unborn children, which can result in stillbirth in the worst of cases.

Testing and treatment options for low to no-cost are available locally through  Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, REACH Medical, Southern Tier AIDS Program. TCHD is also recommending that those that are pregnant recieve syphilis testing at least three times during pregnancy.

“The rise of syphilis cases locally is alarming, and it is important that everyone, especially those who are pregnant, seek testing for this infection to prevent spread and limit severity of disease by engaging in treatment as soon as possible,” stated Kruppa.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at jjordan@ithacavoice.com Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn