A preliminary review of Minnesota's 2003 health statistics shows that the state's syphilis epidemic continued to expand last year, with 93% of all new syphilis diagnoses occurring among gay and bisexual men, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. State health officials called for an increase in efforts to screen people for the sexually transmitted disease, based on data showing that the syphilis rate continues to rise. A total of 74 cases of early syphilis infection were reported in the first nine months of 2003, up from 60 during the same period in 2002. Sixty-nine of those cases were reported among men who have sex with men. Health officials say increased efforts must be made to encourage those at risk for the STD to be screened for infection and to practice safer sex to prevent acquiring or transmitting it to others. "It's a totally preventable disease," said state epidemiologist Harry Hull. "If you practice safe sex, you shouldn't get it. If you do, it can be treated, and you shouldn't be spreading it to anyone else. Some people are not taking the safe-sex warning seriously."