By Alecia Reid

DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — Delaware County officials are sounding the alarm after seeing the highest number of early syphilis cases reported in the past two decades. They’re concerned because the rise is not just affecting one demographic – it’s an equal opportunity problem.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the county is on track to exceed a 104% increase in syphilis infections from 2020. And rising cases are being seen in all populations around the county.

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“Individuals under the age of 30 account for the higher percentage of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia,” Delaware County medical advisor Lisa O’Mahony said.

The county is collaborating with the state department of health to respond to the shift in numbers, and bumping up testing recommendations in response to an explosion of early syphilis cases.

Now, pregnant women are recommended to receive testing for syphilis at their first prenatal visit, the third trimester of pregnancy, and at delivery. And it’s not just pregnant women, all patients with recent positive tests should get extra testing under the new criteria.

“If someone tests positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia, they might extend the testing to HIV and syphilis so that we capture those individuals who may have multiple infections,” O’Mahony said.

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Youth mentor Shawna Perez-Clark says it’s important to have conversations about safe sex and STD prevention.

“We actually prepare packages with condoms. We actually prepare packages that have information about how to use the condoms, STD awareness, so we give them out. We hit the pavement,” Perez-Clark said.

Advocates and officials say they are concerned but want to be proactive in getting people connected to both testing and treatment in a nonjudgemental manner.

Officials say you should be tested if you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms:

  • A macular and/or papular rash on the palms of the hands and/or on the soles of the feet
  • A generalized rash that may be macular, papular, or papulosquamous on the back, chest, or stomach
  • A lesion in the genital, rectal, or oral area
  • Moist papules in the anogenital region or the mouth
  • Sudden “Moth-eaten” scalp alopecia with a typical onset at the back of the head
  • Loss of eyelashes and the lateral third of the eyebrows
  • Generalized lymphadenopathy
  • Malaise
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For more information on syphilis symptoms and treatment, click here.