RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Cases of Syphilis are on the rise - the state health department says Richmond ranks number one in the state.
Health officials warn more people are getting the STD and don't know they're spreading it. Doctors say Syphilis is commonly transmitted through sex and most easily by oral sex.
They say Syphilis symptoms can be vague and often missed.
"A lot of individuals will have the infection pass it on and not realize that's what they're doing," said Pamela Price, and educator and counselor for the Virginia Department of Health.
The city of Richmond first saw a huge increase in 2008 - and has remained the Virginia locality with the most cases ever since. In 2010, there were 83 cases.
"There wasn't another locality or city that was remotely close to that number," said Price.
Price says the epidemic is impacting men and women as young as 15 to 29 years old.
"People are not getting tested, individuals are not using protection, they're not understanding or perhaps grasping they are putting themselves at risk when they have unprotected sex," she said.
Syphilis can be treated but it can lead to serious complications especially for pregnant women. The disease can be passed on to the fetus.
"Those fetuses typically do not fare well, if they live at all," said Price.
Also, Price says people with Syphilis have a higher chance of getting HIV.
Because the symptoms can be mild with just a rash the department of health attributes the increase to people simply not knowing they have a transmittable disease. The solution starts with a simple blood test.
"You do have to have blood drawn but it's very simple, it's not painful and the results come back fairly quickly," said Price.
One blood test can test you for HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis. Price says doctors won't always know to order you an STD exam.
The Department of Health in Richmond offers the public the exam for free.
The address is 400 East Cary Street. The Clinic is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM then 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. You don't have to make an appointment. They even offer treatment for free.