BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - State health officials in the Dakotas are trying to address what they say is an outbreak of syphilis.
There have been 33 reported cases of the sexually transmitted disease in North Dakota this year, up from 26 at the same time last year and just 14 the year before. In South Dakota, there were 43 cases in the first four months of the year, compared with 49 cases for all of 2013.
A lot of the cases are on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles the two states, according to North Dakota’s Health Department.
Health officials have attributed the increase to a variety of factors, including drug use and people not practicing safe sex.
Syphilis is spread through sexual contact and in its primary and secondary phases - the most infectious - it generally causes lesions and a rash. Later-stage syphilis can result in neurological damage and even death if not treated. In women, it can lead to childbirth complications.
Health officials are urging people to get tested regularly for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, to protect themselves and those with whom they have contact.
“Syphilis is a priority here for us,” Lindsey VanderBusch, a disease program director for the North Dakota Health Department, told The Bismarck Tribune.