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National News

CDC Says Syphilis Is at All-Time Low in U.S.

October 18, 2002

Quick responses to outbreaks together with a CDC public awareness campaign launched in 1998 are likely to put syphilis on the endangered list nationwide by 2005, the agency says. After peaking at 20.3 cases per 100,000 people in 1990, the US rate fell to 2.2 cases per 100,000 in 2000 -- the lowest rate since the government began tracking the STD in 1941.

The CDC believes the number could drop to 0.4 cases per 100,000 -- or 4 in 1 million -- by 2005 with continued education and vigilance, said spokesperson Jessica Frickey. But while the CDC stands by those projections, there are signs that complacency is hurting the eradication effort. The CDC will not release national numbers for 2001 until next month, but officials in New York City and Detroit have already said they had large increases last year.

Detroit officials counted 245 syphilis cases through July 30 and are projecting 500 by year's end. All of Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, had 288 cases (13.7 per 100,000) in 2000, according to the CDC. In 1991, Detroit had more than 1,000 syphilis cases but cut that to 92 five years later. Now officials suspect that public awareness and the vigilance of medical professionals declined with the rate of infection. "Things kind of look like they go away, so you forget to watch out for them," said Jo Valentine, the nationwide syphilis elimination program coordinator for the CDC.

New York had 282 syphilis cases last year, up from 117 in 2000, according to city officials. In New York last year, 93 percent of syphilis cases were among men, and 79 percent of those reported having male sex partners, city statistics show.

Valentine cautioned against drawing any broad conclusions from such numbers. The rural Southeast has some of the highest rates of syphilis, in part because it is harder for health workers to educate and treat people in poorer, less densely populated areas, she said.

Back to other CDC news for October 18, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
10.18.02; Joe Mandak

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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 Statistics on Syphilis in the U.S.