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  • Public Health Alert - Syphilis

    Syphilis is on the rise in Arizona

    See below about where to get tested at a Pima County clinic.

    Syphilis is on the rise in Pima County

    Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. It can also be spread from mother to baby during pregnancy. It is easy to become infected and it is easy to cure with testing and treatment. The local trends reflect a nationwide increase of cases among women and newborns. 

    Congenital syphilis poster

    Congenital syphilis is surging in Arizona

    • Arizona has the second-highest rate of congenital syphilis of all states.
    • Since 2015, the yearly average of syphilis cases in women has increased 449 percent. The number of babies born with syphilis has doubled each year.
    • Of the 166 babies born with syphilis in 2021 in Arizona, 10 died.
    • As recently as 2015, there were no reported cases of congenital syphilis in Pima County. In 2017, there were three cases. In 2020, there were 131 female cases of syphilis, with 27 involving pregnancy. As of October 2021, there were 133 female cases of syphilis, with 25 involving pregnancy.
    Click here for more data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

    Syphilis and Pregnancy

    Syphilis in pregnant women can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. Babies who survive can have irreversible damage to the skin, bones, joints, eyes, ears, and brain. There are ways pregnant moms can protect their babies from syphilis. A simple blood test can detect syphilis, and antibiotics cure the disease. Early detection and treatment can prevent devastating lifelong health consequences.

    If you are pregnant, talk to your provider about getting tested for syphilis during your first prenatal visit, early in your third trimester, and at delivery.

    It’s also very important to reduce your risk of getting an STI during your pregnancy by talking to your partner(s) about testing and using condoms.

    Symptoms may include

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    • A painless sore that appears inside or near the mouth, genital or anus
    • A rash that appears on the palm of hands, bottom of feet, or on the body between the armpits and upper thighs

    Although symptoms may come and go, medical testing and treatment is required to diagnose and cure syphilis. Left untreated, the infection can easily be passed on to others as well lead to permanent severe health effects, including nerve damage and blindness. 

    If you are sexually active think about getting tested today if any of the following apply:

    • Experiencing symptoms
    • Being tested for other STIs
    • Are pregnant
    • HIV+ individuals who are sexually active 
    • Anyone engaging in high-risk sexual activity (consider testing every 3-6 months)
      • Unprotected sex
      • Sex with multiple and/or anonymous partners
      • Use of hook-up sites and apps
      • Sex with partners who use drugs
      • Sex with partners who are having sex with other partners

    Information and confidential testing

    • Click the clinic links below for hours; typically 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Monday through Friday
    • Walk-ins welcome

    Clinic locations

    Theresa Lee Public Health Center

    Main Phone: (520) 724-7900
    1493 W. Commerce Ct., Tucson, AZ 85746

    North Office

    Main Phone: (520) 724-2880
    3550 N. 1st Ave. Tucson, AZ 85719

    East Office

    Main Phone: (520) 724-9650
    6920 E. Broadway, Tucson, AZ 85710

    *All three clinics closed from noon to 1 p.m.



    Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be very serious, get the facts

    Syphilis Facts

    For more information and frequently asked questions from the American Sexual Health Association

    Syphilis FAQs

    Additional information for men having sex with men

    Syphilis & MSM

    Ocular Syphilis Information

    Letter to providers

    Fax completed form to (520) 838-7538

    Communicable Disease Investigation Report Form

    Arizona Department of Health Services website listing of mandated reportable diseases per AAC R9-6-202, 203, 204 and 205

    Communicable Diseases reportable to Pima County Health Department

    The CDC recommendations for syphilis diagnosis and treatment (including PCN-allergic patients)

    CDC STD Treatment Guidelines

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    Health Department

    3950 S. Country Club Road
    Ste. 100
    Tucson, AZ 85714

    (520) 724-7770

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