Syphilis rates are on the rise in Vermont, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM), reports local newspaper the Burlington Free Press (, 1/3).

The state had nine reported cases of syphilis last year, up from three cases the previous year, and one in 2005. Health department officials, who warned of the rising rates on January 2, say that syphilis infection can increase a person’s risk of contracting HIV.

They also said that the rise in rates among MSM reflects a national trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MSM accounted for 64 percent of the country’s syphilis cases in 2006. “The key here is that this infection has found its way into Vermont, and it’s being spread among sexually active men who have sex with men here,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Cortland Lohff.