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Detroit Is Hit with an Epidemic of Syphilis; Shake-Up Ordered at State Health Department

September 19, 2002

Michigan health officials said Detroit's recent syphilis outbreak has led to a shake-up in the state Health Department. State health officials said that city and state officials became lax in their battle against the disease after a drop-off in cases during the 1990s. Loretta Davis-Satterla, director of the state Health Department's STD Division, said that she was informed by the CDC that next month's national figures will list Detroit as having the highest syphilis rate in the country for 2001.

In the past week, one state Health Department employee was fired and another resigned. Davis-Satterla would not discuss specifics of the two cases, saying only that "the changes were made to bring about an overall improvement" in eradication efforts. Her office oversees much of the city's STD program. Detroit had a syphilis outbreak in 1991 in which the number of new cases jumped to 1,088. An aggressive eradication campaign was launched, and by 1996 the number had dropped to 92, but experts expect 500 cases this year.

Davis-Satterla, who took her position with the department three years ago, said that because of the decline, community education and awareness declined, and some doctors and public health officials failed to recognize signs of the disease. "You're not as quick to see it, and your skills are lacking," she said. Davis-Satterla said that her department has implemented many of the CDC's recommendations, such as training. In the past year or so, her department has sent out medical alerts to 700 doctors and made several staffing and organizational changes, she said.

"We did not wait until the CDC told us there was a problem," Davis-Satterla said. "We already recognized that there was a problem." The CDC said it is monitoring the crisis. "They're moving in the right direction, and we're going to work with them," said CDC spokesperson Kitty Bina.

Back to other CDC news for September 19, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
09.18.02; John Porretto

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.
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