Syphilis rate still rising annually in Alaska

State health officials have issued a new health alert, warning that syphilis rates in Alaska have continued to rise annually since 2018, which reflects a similar national trend. 

Most cases have occurred in people who self-identify as heterosexual and live in an urban environment, according to the Alaska Department of Health. About half of the 2021 cases were in women and nearly 90% of them were of reproductive age, the report said. This has resulted in a concomitant rise in congenital syphilis cases in Alaska, with racial and ethnic disparities also persisting. 

Current guidelines include screening for syphilis of all pregnant women during their first prenatal visit, during their third trimester and at the time of delivery. The guidelines also call for screening for other sexually transmitted infections for anyone at increased risk for syphilis or who tests positive for syphilis, including HIV and extragenital testing, the report said. 

The notice from Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, noted that the federal Food and Drug Administration currently has a shortage of penicillin G benzathine injective suspension products and recovery is anticipated in the second quarter of 2024. Meanwhile supply is not meeting demand.