January 13, 2012
Syphilis cases have increased in recent years along Ohio's I-75 corridor, with a ripple effect seen from Cincinnati to the Dayton region. Nearly 40 percent of state syphilis cases in 2010 were reported in Cincinnati.
New syphilis cases began soaring in Cincinnati in 2008 and remained high through 2010, state data show. In Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, cases grew from just 36 in 2006 to 420 in 2010. Public Health-Dayton and Montgomery County reported 70 cases last year, compared with 26 in 2010. Interviews by disease investigators found a rising number of Montgomery County cases originated in Cincinnati, said Jim Gross, health commissioner for PHDMC.
"We fear the problem is coming up Interstate 75 and we want to stop it," Gross said. "We recognize their problem can quickly become our problem."
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) requested assistance from CDC, which sent staff to Cincinnati for about six weeks in 2010 and created a set of recommendations, said Jen Keagy, the state's STD prevention program manager. Data for 2011 show a 10 percent decline in Hamilton County syphilis numbers, said Rocky Merz, a spokesperson with the Cincinnati Health Department.
Citing low scores on grant applications -- scoring that Cincinnati contests -- as well as past poor performance, ODH recently put PHDMC in charge of administering a $740,000 grant for the HIV/STD program of Hamilton County. Hamilton County Public Health will take over local program operations.