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Local and Community News

Pennsylvania County Reports Upsurge in Syphilis Cases

May 13, 2003

An outbreak of a potentially fatal sexually transmitted disease in Allegheny County, Pa., prompted health officials to issue a health alert on May 9. Since January, 10 cases of syphilis have been reported, compared to 13 cases total in 2002. "We're probably going to have our highest number of cases since the early 1990s. It's certainly on the upswing here," said Guillermo Cole, an Allegheny County Health Department spokesperson.

County health officials are unable to explain the outbreak of syphilis, which can increase the risk of acquiring or spreading HIV. Of the 10 cases this year, three resulted from homosexual sex, four from heterosexual sex and three involved a female prostitute, Cole said. Seven men and three women have been infected. False-negative results are possible for as long as three months after syphilis infection.

A few of the cases are linked to a continuing outbreak concentrated in the New Kensington area of Westmoreland County, where seven cases of syphilis have already been reported this year, according to Richard McGarvey, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The New Kensington outbreak began in late 2001 among prostitutes and crack users, said McGarvey.

Allegheny County has much higher rates of other STDs, including chlamydia -- 4,216 cases in 2002 -- and gonorrhea -- 2,166 cases last year. "Syphilis is much more serious in terms of its complications," said Cole. The Health Department's STD clinic, 3441 Forbes Ave., Oakland, Pa., offers free testing and services.

Back to other CDC news for May 13, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
05.10.03; Karen Roebuck

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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 on Syphilis in Mid-Atlantic U.S. States