Syphilis cases are surging. Should I be worried?

The sexually transmitted disease can mimic other illnesses, and many people don’t know they have it. Here’s what you need to know.

(Alessandro Puccinelli/Glasshouse Images)

Syphilis is making a comeback in the United States. In 2021, total cases of the sexually transmitted disease surged by 27 percent to more than 171,000, and the rate reached a 30-year high, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spike is part of a concerning trend of rising sexually transmitted infections, but syphilis is particularly worrisome because it can mimic other infections and some people don’t even know they have it. Even among doctors, knowledge of the disease is low. Congenital syphilis, which affects babies born to mothers who had the disease while pregnant, is also increasing. Here are answers to some common questions about the disease.

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