In the midst of the coronavirus, Alaska health officials are facing another outbreak: syphilis.
According to local media reports, the state Department of Health and Social Services said sexually transmitted diseases are always at a national level and in Alaska. The Alaska State Epidemiology Bulletin on Syphilis, released Thursday, stated that the number of cases of sexually transmitted disease doubled in 2019 and health officials are concerned that the numbers will reach a similar maximum on 2020.
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According to the bulletin, the majority of increased cases were in heterosexual men and women. The increase in female cases raises the risk of women transmitting the infection to their babies, officials said in the report that this “underscores the importance of STI screening in the initial prenatal visit, during the third quarter and at the time of delivery for people at risk. “
“This is a reminder that as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other outbreaks that need our attention,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, an Alaska State Epidemiologist, said in a statement to local television outlet KTUU- 2.
The outbreak of syphilis in Alaska was first reported in 2018. At that time, 114 cases were reported to state epidemiologists. But in 2019, the number of syphilis cases increased to 242, an increase of 112 percent.
Many factors contributed to the rise in cases. Among them were methamphetamine and heroin use, homelessness and a history of incarceration within the twelve months prior to the survey, according to the state’s Epidemiology Bulletin.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended states with STD clinics open under capacity constraints in an effort to prioritize patients with symptoms of sexually transmitted disease and groups that are considered high risk.
To reduce the spread of the disease, the department advised Alaskans to take precautions, get tested regularly, and seek treatment and inform their partner if they are positive, according to KTUU-2.