ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Cities all across the Lone Star State have reported a rise in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) since the beginning of 2023. These cases have mostly been reported in larger cities like Dallas and Austin, but that doesn’t mean smaller communities aren’t seeing a similar rise, as Mercy Clinic head nurse for the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District, Talon Romick, explained.

“Unfortunately, we are not immune to that here in Taylor County. We have seen an incredible spike in syphilis and gonorrhea just in the year 2023,” said Romick.

Numbers have fluctuated in Taylor County since January, but in March and June, county health authorities reported spikes in a few diseases with the most dramatic spikes seen lately in gonorrhea and syphilis.

“I do know that Abilene is not in the top ten… Our neighbor Lubbock is actually number one,” Romick shared.

Romick added that while no STD is good, they are most concerned about the spread of syphilis specifically because it can be difficult to spot and the long-term effects can be much more detrimental.

“Syphilis can actually cause death if it’s not treated. Now let me be clear, it takes a long, long time for syphilis to go to that extreme, but we want to make sure that we’re catching it because it can be deadly,” Romick said.

The main symptoms of syphilis can be seen early on. Romick said a sore or sores on the genitals may appear, and they are usually painless. Next, a rash across the body may appear and then the disease will lie dormant but still present.

Romick said that the cause of these spikes can be hard to pin down. A rise in partners not using protection is one contributor, but like any disease, when it spreads, it spreads fast.

“And that’s definitely what we’ve seen in Taylor County. We’ve had little pockets of increases that have multiplied, making more increases,” Romick shared.

Getting tested at least once a year can help you better understand your own health as well as slowing the spread to others. Romick said yearly testing can also help catch the invisible signs of disease, as many people do not show symptoms of chlamydia or gonorrhea.

“It’s always better to be proactive than just to worry about something and not be sure,” Romick said.

These spikes have been mainly attributed to the 18-24 age range, but STDs do not discriminate based on age.

“There’s also an increase in the older population, typically above 60,” Romick said.

As students return to Abilene for college, Romick said they expect a second rise in most STDs. This is due mainly to a larger population, not necessarily a rise in sexual activity.

“It’s not necessarily something we want people to panic and freak out. But just to remind people to get tested,” Romick expressed.

The Mercy Clinic at 1902 Shelton Street in Abilene offers STD testing for $20 and includes testing for HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. On the first Monday of every month, the clinic offers free testing.