Syphilis Infections on Rise in New Mexico
November 14, 2005
Syphilis cases continue to rise in New Mexico, whose rate of the disease climbed from fifth- to fourth-highest in the nation last year, according to recently released CDC figures. And while rates of the disease have been rising across the country, unlike the rest of the nation, New Mexico is seeing syphilis more frequently in heterosexuals than homosexuals.
Bernalillo and McKinley counties remain hot spots for the disease. The three-year average syphilis rate for New Mexico is 3.5 per 100,000 people, compared to 6.8 in Bernalillo and 22.5 in McKinley County.
Dr. Bruce Trigg, STD program director for the public-health district that includes Albuquerque and northwestern New Mexico, said syphilis rates are disproportionately higher among some ethnic groups. In 2004, the statewide rate was 4.4 cases per 100,000 people, but it was 1.1 among non-Hispanic whites, 3.2 among Hispanics and 17.0 among Native Americans, he said. "It really is a measure of social inequities ... It's a mark of social conditions," Trigg said, citing poverty, unemployment and drugs as factors that seem to increase syphilis rates.
Statewide, cases of the disease more than doubled, from 39 in 2002 to 82 in 2004. Dr. Steve Jenison, medical director of the health department's STD clinic in Albuquerque, and Trigg said many of the cases are connected to drug use and prostitution. In the case of drug use, people may be exchanging sex for drugs or engaging in risky behavior while using drugs, they said.
To stop the spread of syphilis, public-health workers are asking infected persons about their sexual contacts and encouraging those persons to seek testing. People seeking treatment at STD clinics and women receiving prenatal care are also tested for the disease.
New Mexico also had the fourth-highest chlamydia rate in the nation, with 9,035 cases reported in 2004. Jenison noted that New Mexico uses a more sensitive chlamydia test than some states, which may explain the rise. New Mexico ranked 32nd in gonorrhea incidence last year, with 1,306 cases reported.
11.11.05; Jackie Jadrnak
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.