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Virginia Department of Health website shows alarming rise in syphilis cases

Crystal Graham
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The number of reported syphilis cases is on the rise in Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Health has launched a new webpage to educate the public.

Reported total early syphilis cases in Virginia increased 14 percent from 2018 to 2022. To date in 2023, syphilis case reports are 21 percent higher than for the equivalent period in 2022.

Most TES cases are diagnosed among men (84 percent in 2022). However, cases among women are on the rise (70 percent increase from 2018-2022).

Syphilis diagnoses among persons who misuse substances such as opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine are also increasing.

Cases of congenital syphilis, which occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy, have similarly increased dramatically in the last decade.

National data show comparable trends.

The new syphilis webpage summarizes important information about syphilis infections, including:

  • Common symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • Testing and treatment recommendations.

Virginians can use this information to better protect themselves and their communities from syphilis.

A syphilis data dashboard includes up-to-date information on annual and monthly TES case counts by patient residence and demographics.

Cases are reported by the local health district of the patient’s residence at diagnosis with standard VDH data suppression rules in place to protect patient privacy.

Data on congenital syphilis diagnoses are also presented by year and health region. The dashboard data is updated weekly on Tuesdays.

Additional resources specifically for healthcare providers are also available. Provider resources are designed to assist with identifying, staging, treating, reporting and preventing syphilis.

For more information on sexually transmitted disease testing, visit the VDH testing page.

For more information on syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, visit the VDH STDs page.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.