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November 9, 2023

Salt Lake County Sees an 800% Increase of Syphilis in Women

Nicholas Rupp - Email

(SALT LAKE COUNTY)—Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) announced today that the county is seeing an alarming increase in cases of syphilis that is consistent with national data announced Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From 2018 to 2022, Salt Lake County had an 800% increase in syphilis cases among women, and 89% of those cases were in women of child-bearing age (15–44). An increase in syphilis among women of child-bearing age increases the risk of newborn syphilis in the community.

Newborn syphilis occurs when mothers do not receive timely testing and treatment during their pregnancy. Syphilis during pregnancy can lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death, and surviving infants who are not adequately treated can develop blindness, deafness, developmental delays, or skeletal abnormalities.

“In 2022, we saw our first case of syphilis in a newborn since 2008,” said Dr. Angela C. Dunn, executive director of SLCoHD. “Newborn syphilis is especially unfortunate because it’s completely preventable—we can keep newborns from suffering by ensuring women have affordable, convenient access to syphilis testing and treatment, as well as appropriate prenatal care.”

Syphilis rates in all people—not just women—have also increased in recent years, though not as dramatically as those among women. From 2018 to 2022, overall syphilis rates in Salt Lake County have increased 65%.

The CDC recommends that all pregnant women be tested for syphilis early in pregnancy, and that people with multiple or anonymous sexual partners be tested for syphilis every 3, 6, or 12 months depending on their number of partners and their specific circumstances.

Public health officials also urge health care providers to start syphilis treatment right away—while waiting for confirmatory testing—when they have a patient test positive on a rapid (point-of-care) syphilis test.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium. When left untreated, it can cause serious health problems. The infection develops in stages, and each stage can have different signs and symptoms. Syphilis is curable with the right antibiotics; however, treatment might not undo any damage the infection has already caused.

For more information about syphilis, visit