After Years of Decline, Syphilis on Rise in Virginia
October 27, 2005
Syphilis appears to be on the rise in Virginia as the state recorded its first increase in cases last year since 1994, when 1,409 cases were diagnosed. Cases increased from 156 in 2003 to 223 in 2004.
Rob Mason, assistant director of Virginia's Outbreak Response Unit, said the new findings came just after officials at the state Department of Health believed they could eliminate the disease, whose numbers had steadily declined to the lowest level in at least 50 years. The state's most recent data show 39 new syphilis cases were reported from January to March of this year.
In response, the health department's Division of HIV, STD, and Pharmacy Services will launch an education and prevention campaign by the end of the year, said spokesperson Shannon Marshall. The effort seeks to make syphilis testing a more routine part of check-ups and to get communities involved in educating residents about what behaviors put them at risk for the infection.
"The campaign will hopefully prompt individuals to get tested," said Marshall. "Hopefully, the education information that's distributed will lead to safe sex practices."
State data show about one-third of the cases reported between 1998 and 2004 were in South Hampton Roads. Norfolk had the highest number of cases during that period, with 333 diagnoses, while Richmond was second with 216 cases, and Arlington was third with 86.
According to Mason, most of the new cases statewide are among men who have sex with men. He noted that some of these men are also in relationships with women who are unaware of their partner's bisexuality. This increases syphilis infections among men and places women at greater risk for contracting the disease, said Mason.
10.24.2005; Nicole Morgan
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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.