STDs on the rise throughout the Heartland

Cape Girardeau County is seeing an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 8:42 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - With STDs like syphilis on the rise across the Heartland, it’s possible that some of the infected might not know it. Those who leave the disease untreated could face dire consequences.

“The big fear is that there are probably a lot more people out there walking around with syphilis who don’t know they have it,” Shawnee Healthcare Doctor Jeff Ripperda said.

Dr. Rippenda says he’s seeing a rise in cases of sexually transmitted diseases in his part of the Heartland. It’s the same concern we heard this week from the Cape County Health Center.

“Typically, in any given month we might have one or two cases of syphilis. And we’re upwards to 6 to 14 cases right now.”

Assistant Director Autumn Grim said that increase could be caused by the pandemic, with fewer people getting the tests needed to diagnose it. Dr. Ripperda agrees.

“And the hard part about testing for syphilis is it does take a blood test,” Grim said. “So, a lot of people that come in for STD testing or screening in particular, aren’t necessary having a blood test.”

Which means if the disease goes untreated, Ripperda said it could have lasting effects.

“Outside of maybe HIV it’s probably the STD that has the most potential to cause permanent damage to someone,” Dr. Ripperda said.

That’s why Grim wants sexually active people to look out for common symptoms including a visible sore that is typically not painful.

“It can cause a rash, it can cause hair loss. In advanced stages it can cause heart failure and dementia,” Grim said.

Ripperda added on “when someone gets that far without treatment than it can actually be fatal. So, it’s so important to get treated.”

“But thankfully it’s not a complicated condition to treat as long as it’s caught in the early stages.”

Syphilis is normally spread through sexual intercourse or skin to skin contact with open lacerations. It can be treated with simple antibiotics.

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