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State health officials report syphilis cases increasing in Iowa

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State health officials stay syphilis cases are increasing in Iowa.

State health officials said the number of syphilis cases are increasing across Iowa, as STI testing is more widely available in the past year.

Cases increased from 360 in 2019 to 500 in 2020, an increase of 38.8 percent.

State health officials said they’re on track to increase further when 2021's numbers are finalized.

George Walton, the program director for sexually transmitted diseases at the state health department, said one reason for the increase could be because STI testing decreased during the pandemic, which allowed more asymptomatic cases to go undiagnosed.

"We still fear that there's a large percentage of folks that are asymptomatic, that are remaining undiagnosed," he said, "and of course, that facilitates spread further because they don't know to get treatment and can spread to other individuals."

On top of that, Walton said syphilis is also affecting a wider demographic range. Previously, he said most cases were found among men who have sex with men.

"Already in 2021, the number of cases among women has more than doubled, compared to 2020," he said. "So as you can imagine, as more populations are affected, there's more opportunity for the infection to spread."

Walton said sexually active Iowans should get regular screenings for STIs, as infections such as syphilis and gonorrhea are often asymptomatic.