Health Officials: Syphilis Outbreak Worsening in Southern Idaho
June 30, 2005
Health officials say a syphilis outbreak that began in 2003 is getting worse in southern Idaho. Since the outbreak began, the Southwest District Health Department has found 104 cases in its six-county region in southwestern Idaho, most concentrated in Canyon County. Cases have been spread evenly among men and women, with half having been jailed in the past and 70 percent admitting to methamphetamine use.
Idaho has the sixth-highest rate of congenital syphilis in the nation, according to Laurie Boston, Southwest District Health spokesperson. CDC reports that during 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, four babies in the state were born with the disease.
Last year, health department officials said the outbreak was quickly spreading among the area's young Hispanic population. The district increased the number of staffers who deal with syphilis, assigned case managers to each pregnant mother who tested positive, and teamed up with the Idaho Migrant Council and Terry Reilly Health Services to educate the public. Since then, case rates among Hispanics have lowered.
However, the outbreak is spreading rapidly among drug users, and officials are focusing efforts toward them. It is difficult for health workers to implement partner notification for such patients since drug users may have had multiple partners or may not remember whom their partners were, officials said.
In 1991, two cases of syphilis were recorded in Southwest District Health's region, and none in 2000. One case was confirmed in 2001, nine cases in 2002, 38 in 2003, and 46 in 2004. So far, 20 cases have been confirmed this year, said Boston.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.