Alaska health officials have recorded 75 cases of syphilis in the state this year, marking the largest outbreak of the infectious disease in at least four decades.
The Alaska Section of Epidemiology said in an update this week that it has requested help with response efforts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, KTVA-TV reported Wednesday.
The number of cases is the highest reported in the state since at least the 1970s, said Susan Jones, a program manager with the state Division of Public Health.
“It actually can be before that but that’s as far back as we have saved data,” Jones said.
Out of the 75 cases, 64 occurred in Anchorage and 66 were men, according to the state. Of the nine women, two were pregnant at the time of diagnosis. The ages of people infected ranged from 18 to 76, with 20 cases recorded in the 25 to 29 age group.
Health officials also found a probable case of congenital syphilis in an infant born in March whose mother had been diagnosed last year.
Symptoms of the sexually transmitted infection in its early stages include genital sores, skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever, according to the CDC.
The disease in the tertiary stage can damage internal organs and result in death. According to the CDC, most people with untreated syphilis do not develop symptoms of the last stage, but tertiary syphilis could develop decades after infection.
“It’s easy to acquire syphilis by having sex with somebody with infection, it’s easy to have the disease and not be aware of it, and it’s also easy to treat if we catch it early,” Jones said.
Syphilis can be treated with an antibiotic injection.