SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Throughout the first half of 2022, KELOLAND News tracked the rising spread of syphilis in South Dakota, as the rate rose by 900% in February, 1877% in April, and then 2183% by July.

As of April 11, 2023, the Department of Health (DOH) tracking shows the syphilis rate has dropped slightly, though it is still far above the 5-year-median for this time of year.

That 5-year-median YTD for syphilis is an average of 15 cases by this time in April. This year, however, we’re sitting at a total of 283 cases since January 1, a 1787% increase over the 5-year-median.

It is not just the early form of syphilis that has seen a large increase. Congenital syphilis, caused when a mother passes the infection on to a baby during pregnancy, is also seeing a sharp increase.

The 5-year-median YTD for congenital syphilis is 1 case by this point in April, yet since January 1, the DOH has recorded 16 cases; a 1500% increase.

Addressing the surge in cases back in the summer of 2022, public health officials in South Dakota and Minnesota, which have also seen an increase, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic likely contributed to the initial rise in cases, with many STD clinical services unavailable.

Two additional factors also noted by the officials however were drug use and anonymous sex.

“Anonymous sex we’ve seen increasing over the last decade,” said Angela Cascio, Infectious Disease Director for the South Dakota DOH back in July 2022. “It’s not something that’s new, but I think with the combined illicit drug use and individuals not remembering their multiple partners, that’s one additional factor that contributes to the increase.”

When looking at ways to mitigate the spread of syphilis, officials say to be open with your care provider, get regular screenings if sexually active with more than one partner, and to practice safe sex.

You can learn more about testing in South Dakota here, and about condom usage here.