Salt Lake County sees ‘alarming’ increase in syphilis

From 2018 to 2022, Salt Lake County had an 800% increase in syphilis cases among women, the county health department said

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Salt Lake County is seeing what the county health department calls “an alarming increase” in cases of syphilis.

“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),” the department said. “An increase in syphilis among women of child-bearing age increases the risk of newborn syphilis in the community.”

The Salt Lake County Health Department did not release numbers of cases.

It said the sharp rise is consistent with national data announced Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Newborn syphilis occurs when mothers do not receive timely testing and treatment during their pregnancy, the department said. “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 the health department, said in the press release. “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, the health department said, 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.”

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. When left untreated, it can cause serious health problems. It is curable with the right antibiotics; however, treatment might not undo any damage the infection has already caused.

For more information about syphilis, visit

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