June 22, 2011
Hamilton County's syphilis rate is almost nine times that of the nation's, according to a new regional health report, while its gonorrhea and chlamydia rates are respectively double and triple the overall US rates.
In 2010, county syphilis incidence was 32 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to 2 for the state and 3.6 for the nation. In 2009, the county had 171 cases, up from 70 the previous year. Health officials in southwest Ohio are trying to determine the cause of the increase and urging residents to get tested.
The Cincinnati Health Department lacks the personnel and budget to follow up with people who do not return for positive chlamydia or gonorrhea tests, said Larry Holditch, CHD's medical director.
"The main reason is volume," Holditch said. "You're talking about 6,300 cases of chlamydia and 2,500 cases of gonorrhea. You'd have to hire 100 staff. There's just not the money or staff to do the follow up."
State law does not allow expedited partner therapy, or presumptively treating STD patients' partners who do not present for testing. While CHD gives partner referral cards to patients with chlamydia or gonorrhea, "We don't get a huge return on that," Holditch said. CHD does follow up with all patients testing positive for syphilis and HIV, and with their partners, he added.
Cincinnati's Children's Hospital Medical Center now asks all teen patients for their cell phone number when they visit its emergency department or teen health center. Nurses use text messages to notify teens testing positive that they need to get treated and bring in their partners, said Jill Huppert, a hospital pediatric and adolescent gynecologist.
To view the regional health report, produced by Xavier University, Health Improvement Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati and United Way of Cincinnati, visit www.indicatorsofhealthycommunities.org.