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U.S. Syphilis Rates On the Rise Among Men

May 08, 2014 04:30 PM EDT

Cases of syphilis in the United States are again on the rise, according to a recent federal report. The rise in cases of the sexual transmitted disease is seen almost entirely among men, who currently make up 91 percent of all US cases.

According to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) out from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cases of syphilis in the US have doubled since 2005.

According to CDC investigators, a total of 16,663 cases of the potentially debilitating sexual disease were identified in the US in 2013. The rate of infection that same year was 5.3 cases per 100,000 citizens -- a rate more than double the lowest rate ever seen in the U.S. back in 2000, which was 2.1 cases per 100,000 citizens.

In 2000, the CDC nearly achieved its goal of completely eliminating syphilis from the country, declaring that "syphilis elimination history was in the making," by November of 2001. However, things soon turned for the worse, and by 2006 the CDC was reporting that the country had hit an all-time high, with more than 36,000 cases of the dangerous bacterial infection.

According to the CDC, syphilis is a potentially debilitating disease that can be transmitted through sexual activity. Past reports have shown that the disease can even be transmitted through prolonged kissing, as the disease is spread through vulnerable contact with sores - the vast majority of which can go unnoticed.

If left untreated, the disease - which results from an infection of the bacteria Treponema pallidum - can result in serious long-term health problems such as brain damage and blindness.

According to the MMWR report, syphilis rates of infection shortly fell and then stabilized in the US between 2009 and 2010. However, by 2011, the rates of infection began to again see an alarming rate of rise, with the disease primarily affecting the homosexual community.

In an effort to again stall the rising rate of infection, CDC investigators recommend that general practitioners and health clinic increase their rate of syphilis screenings among male patients, especially among those who report having sex with other men.

Public outreach programs were also recommended, promoting aid and partner-notification programs among the homosexual community.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report was published for the week of May 9.

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