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Trying to Quiet the Roar of Syphilis

Syphilis is back in a big way in the US and officials don't quite know how to handle it.

The number of early-stage syphilis, when the disease is most contagious, rose to nearly 24,000 cases in 2015, a 19 percent jump from the year before, the New York Times writes, with the total number of cases at about 75,000.

While treating it is fairly simple — usually two shots of Bicillin L-A, a type of penicillin, is all that's needed — trying to keep the outbreak in check has proven tricky, nonetheless. For one thing, supplies of Bicillin L-A have dwindled, though stockpiles are supposed to be replenished by the end of this year.

Additionally, trying to get in touch with those who have tested positive for the disease is not as simple as it once was. Going to people's homes or cold-calling them has not worked, investigators in Oklahoma told the Times, as more people are transient and use disposable phones. As a result, investigators have resorted to Facebook to find the patients.

Also, because syphilis has been on the downtick since the 1990s, some doctors may never have seen a real-life case of the disease and end up misdiagnosing it when they do.

Funding for clinics that focus on preventing sexually transmitted disease is also down. The newspaper reports that in 2012, half of state programs that deal with STDs saw their funding reduced. Since then it has stayed largely flat, but the Trump administration wants to cut the federal prevention budget by 17 percent.