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Washoe County, Nev.: Syphilis, HIV Outbreaks Linked

January 8, 2014

This article was reported by and KRNV. and KRNV reported that Washoe County, Nev., recorded a 32-case outbreak of primary syphilis in 2013, with highest incidence occurring among men who had sex with men (MSM). Jennifer Howell, sexual health program coordinator at the Washoe County Health Department, noted that more than 50 percent of Washoe County MSM diagnosed with syphilis also had HIV. She explained that people with syphilis skin lesions and sores (breaks in the skin) were three to five times more likely to acquire an HIV infection. Washoe County reported 20 new HIV infections in 2012 and 25 in 2013.

Howell described syphilis as a curable bacterial infection that had three stages. Primary syphilis could cause long-lasting, painless sores; secondary syphilis could produce "rashes and lesions" on the body and hands; tertiary-phase (latent) syphilis could cause blindness and damage the brain and nervous system.

Howell urged sexual partners to get tested, be honest about their sexual history, and use condoms to prevent STD outbreaks. Washoe County Health Department encouraged people with "unusual rashes or sores" and sexually active people to have STD testing. The health department clinic offered testing for walk-in clients or by appointment, with an income-based fee.

Back to other news for January 2014

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Syphilis -- a Dreadful Disease on the Move
Syphilis Fact Sheet
Basic Questions and Answers About Syphilis and Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)
More News and Research on Syphilis in Western U.S. States

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