CHICAGO (CBS) — A new campaign targets those who are sexually active and may not be taking precautions, and thus may be at risk for syphilis.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, officials with the Chicago Department of Public Health say they are seeing an increase in syphilis cases.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports

In the last two years, primary and secondary syphilis cases increased 23 percent.

The report found the overwhelming majority of cases — 88 percent — were found in men. That number reflects the ongoing outbreak among men who have sex with men, which takes up 50 percent of the cases reported in men, the release said.

The number of infections also increased among women with 31 cases reported in 2009 compared to 84 cases reported in 2010. In heterosexual males, 40 cases were reported in 2009 compared to 86 cases reported in 2010.

The highest proportion of cases occurred in African-Americans — 59 percent — and among 20 to 29-year-olds, with 38 percent.

The Chicago communities with the highest reported cases include three on the north lakefront and one on the West Side – Uptown, Lakeview, Austin, Edgewater and Rogers Park.

In response to the report, the department is working to increase prevention efforts, education and routine testing. That includes the Get Tested Chicago campaign, which features targeted billboards, radios public service announcements, and bus advertisements. <a href="; target="_blank".There’s also a Web site that lists all of the testing sites around Illinois.

Syphilis begins with a sore in the genital area. In the later stage there could be a rash on the hands and the feet. Someone with advanced syphilis could face damage to the organs, including the brain and the heart. It can be deadly.

A simple blood test will tell you if you have syphilis and the disease is easy to treat. Doctors say penicillin can cure it, as long as it is treated before it gets out of hand.

The Get Tested Chicago campaign encourages individuals to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, a release from the Chicago Department of Public Health said.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

Watch & Listen LIVE