It's an STD that was once believed to be on the verge of extinction, but now health officials say the number of new cases of syphilis is on the rise in California, especially in San Francisco.
A new report released by the California Department of Public Health found that the early syphilis morbidity rate increased by nearly 14 percent between 2011 and 2012 throughout the state. In the bay area, new cases of the disease were even higher - more than 28 percent.
According to The Huffington Post, health officials said that since the disease has a multi-week incubation period and symptoms that are often painless, many people who are infected don't know it right away and may continue to infect others.
"If we could identify and treat syphilis within that first window - before the initial lesion - then we should be able to stop the cycle of transmission," Susan Philip, from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, told SF Weekly.
The publication reports gay and transgender individuals have been affected most by the recent outbreak. Individuals who meet sexual partners online were also infected more than others. Additionally, other STDs, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, are also on the rise in San Francisco.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there were 46,042 new cases of syphilis in the U.S. in 2011. The STD is spread by contact with sores on the genitals, mouth and other areas of the body. If left untreated, it can cause long-term health problems including death.
It can take as long as three months for syphilis sores to appear following infection. Additionally, they are often ignored or overlooked because they are painless.
Syphilis can be detected with a simple blood test and can easily be treated with antibiotics.