A state advocacy group is sounding the alarm about a jump in sexually transmitted infections both statewide and in one southwest Missouri county.

There’s been a significant increase in syphilis in Newton County in a four year period, according to Planned Parenthood. Jesse Lawder is the head of communications for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and southwest Missouri. He said, Syphilis is easily treatable. but without treatment you can see problems like brain damage, paralysis, blindness, untreated syphilis over time can lead to serious problems. 

There were more than 51,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections in Missouri last year, and Lawder says the trend isn’t limited to the state’s biggest metro areas. They are not in St. Louis and Kansas City the bigger percentage increases we’re seeing happening are in our areas. 

Statewide syphilis is up 200% from 2015 to 2018. And the report points to five counties where there’s a 1,000% increase, including Newton County. There, it was a jump from one diagnosis to 12.

Workers at the Newton County health department say they take every diagnosis seriously, and that syphilis isn’t the only STI on the rise. Rene Bohns is a registered nurse with the Newton Co. Health Department. We’re actually seeing some increase in other categories too. So we are seeing an increase of gonorrhea um even in newton county we’ve seen those numbers go up a lot this past year. She adds that it’s critical for those patients to get treated since long term effects can include blindness, paralysis, and even death if left untreated.