Colorado health officials: 'Syphilis is back'

Epidemiologists looking at 42% increase

DENVER - Colorado epidemiologists are reporting a 42% increase in syphilis cases in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014.

Most of the cases are being diagnosed in males who have sex with males, and many of those infected report using dating apps for casual or anonymous sexual encounters, though health officials say it is too early to say if that is connected. 

"Dating apps allow for casual sexual encounters, anonymous sexual encounters, high-risk sexual encounters," said Daniel Shodell, the Deputy Director with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division. "So far, we have seen that amongst the cases of syphilis reported. We do see that there is a high level of reported use of those applications. There may be a link between high-risk sexual activities and usage of these applications."

Nationally, dating apps have been blamed for STD epidemics across the country, from Rhode Island to Utah.

And it is not the first time Colorado has seen a spike in the sexually transmitted disease. 

In 2012, the state launched a "Syphilis is Up" campaign (pictures in the link below) after seeing a 350% spike in five years.

The good news is the STD, which usually shows symptoms of ulcers or a rash on hands and feet, is highly treatable and curable if caught early. In rare cases, though, it can have neurologic symptoms.

So far this year in Colorado, there have been eight cases of ocular syphilis and two have led to permanent blindness.

The health department plans to send out a Health Alert Network warning to doctors next week to be especially vigilant about the disease in high-risk populations.

For more information about syphilis click here.

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