New Hampshire Health Officials Warn of Syphilis Outbreak

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New Hampshire health officials are warning residents of a syphilis outbreak, saying the number of reported cases so far for 2017 are double that of previous years.

Through May of this year, the state Department of Health and Human Services said 42 cases of the sexually transmitted disease were identified. Over the past five years, there have been an average of 20 cases of syphilis in that time period.

State health officials said the increase is consistent with national trends. The majority of the cases have been in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.

"Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can have serious health consequences if left untreated, but it can be cured when a person is diagnosed and given the right antibiotics," State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said. "Syphilis was close to being eliminated in the United States back in 2000, but over the last decade it has been making a resurgence, and unfortunately, New Hampshire is not immune to the impact of increasing STDs."

Syphilis can infect anyone who is sexually active. If a pregnant woman is infected, she can pass on the infection to her unborn child, resulting in congenital syphilis, a severe, disabling and often life-threatening infection seen only in infants. New Hampshire has not had a case of congenital syphilis since 2013.

The news comes just five months after New Hampshire health officials warned of an outbreak of another sexually transmitted disease - gonorrhea. Reported cases of gonorrhea in the state exploded by an even more rapid rate of 250 percent in 2016.

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