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Local and Community News

Arizona: Syphilis Rates in Maricopa County Among the Worst in the Nation

July 23, 2002

While the rest of the country celebrates record-low syphilis rates, Arizona's most populous county is experiencing the infection at epidemic proportions. Syphilis rates jumped from 709 cases in Maricopa County (Phoenix) in 2000 to 848 cases in 2001. Mother-to-child syphilis rose from 23 cases to 28 during the same period. "It's alarming because the babies are dying," said Douglas Hauth, spokesperson for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health Services. "It's alarming because they don't need to die. And it's alarming because it's so costly," he said.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday plans to try to increase STD clinic service fees to $20 per visit, up from $10. Officials hope the fee increase will generate $135,000 to provide faster STD service and supplement HIV testing. If approved, the county's public hearing for the increase will likely be in August.

Jonathan Weisbuch, the county's director of public health, said that during the past few months, several hundred people a week have not been able to get into the STD clinic because it has been so busy. Weisbuch said the fee would be waived for anybody who cannot afford it.

For the past several years, Maricopa Medical Center has had one of the highest rates of congenital syphilis in the country, said Dr. Chris Carey, chair of obstetric/gynecology and women's health at the center. The cases often occur when immigrant women have not received basic public health care. When left untreated in pregnant women, syphilis can result in infant death in up to 40 percent of cases. If the baby does survive, the newborn faces a variety of mental and physical problems. It can cost as much as $10,000 a day to treat the babies, depending on the severity of complications, Hauth said.

Back to other CDC news for July 23, 2002

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Adapted from:
Associated Press

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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 Southwestern U.S. States