Health officials continue to warn Oklahomans about syphilis outbreak as infection rate increases

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A health epidemic that has wreaked havoc across the country is doing the same in Oklahoma County.

In March, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department told KFOR that there were already more than 75 confirmed cases of syphilis in Oklahoma County.

"A very alarming outbreak," Tiffany Elmore, with the OKC-County Health Department, said.

For months, health officials have been warning residents to take extra precautions to avoid contracting the disease.

However, a New York Times article details that the situation appears to be getting worse before it gets better.

According to the New York Times, there have already been 199 cases of syphilis in Oklahoma City so far this year.

The disease is affecting people of all ages with the youngest patient being a 14-year-old girl, and the oldest is a 61-year-old man. Officials say three stillbirths have been attributed to the disease and 13 pregnant women were infected.

Health officials have taken it upon themselves to go out into the community to locate possible patients and warn them about the dangers associated with the STD.

“Syphilis doesn’t sleep for anyone,” Portia King, an Oklahoma state health investigator, told the New York Times. “We have 200 open cases of sex partners we’re looking for. And the spread is migrating out of the city.”

According to health officials, the most common risk factors associated with this outbreak include drug use or having multiple sex partners.

The STD has different stages of infection and sometimes people will show no symptoms at all.

In the primary stage, a person may develop sores around the genital areas or in the mouth. The second phase symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes and skin rashes.

During the third level, those infected may experience severe medical issues that could impact vital organs like the brain and heart.

Officials say syphilis is curable with an antibiotic, and there are ways to prevent infection.

"Prevention would be having a long-term monogamous relationship, or abstaining from sex. Another option is to always wear condoms. To have that conversation with your partner and to get yourself screened and checked out," Elmore told KFOR.

It’s important to go to your healthcare provider immediately if you think you have syphilis.