State warns against increasing syphilis cases in Thurston County

County proclaims April as STI Awareness Month


A representative from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) raised concern about the increasing number of cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), particularly syphilis, in the county during the county’s Board of Health (BOH) meeting on April 9.

Zandt Bryan, Sexual Health and Prevention Program Manager at the Department of Health, underscored the urgent need for heightened awareness and proactive measures to combat the increasing prevalence of STIs, particularly syphilis.

“Many of those affected are among those most in need in our communities, such as people who are unstably housed and affected by substance use disorders,” said Bryan. “This means that Washington State, similar to the rest of the nation, now sees increasing cases of syphilis among cisgender women.”

Bryan drew attention to the alarming statistics regarding syphilis cases in Thurston County. Over the past six years, reported cases of syphilis have surged by an unprecedented 292%, reflecting a concerning trend observed statewide, which saw a 153%-increase.

Danger to unborn children

Particularly alarming is the rise in congenital syphilis, in which the disease is passed onto a fetus by its pregnant mother. Bryan emphasized the preventable nature of congenital syphilis through prenatal testing, stressing the need for improved access to medical care for pregnancy-capable individuals.

“This is especially alarming when we acknowledge that among the reported congenital syphilis cases are stillbirths,” he added. “Congenital syphilis can result in stillbirth or neonatal death.”

Bryan said the collaborative efforts between the Office of Infectious Disease and Thurston County aim to provide support and access to medical care for those diagnosed with STIs, including HIV.

STI Awareness Month

Thurston's BOH officially proclaimed April as STI Awareness Month during the same meeting.

The board said its proclamation aims to elevate awareness, diminish stigma, and encourage individuals to prioritize their sexual health through regular testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

Thurston seeks to empower residents to prioritize their well-being and that of their partners by fostering open discussions about sexual health and connecting individuals with healthcare providers.

“Discussing sexual health and history with healthcare providers helps connections to appropriate testing, care, and counseling services reducing disease associated consequences such diminished reproductive health,” the proclamation read.


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