Local and Community News
Pima County, Ariz., Syphilis Cases Have Tripled Since 2000, Statistics Show
March 7, 2003
Cases of syphilis have tripled in Pima County, Ariz., in recent years, prompting health officials to issue an alert to doctors and clinics. The disease is more prevalent in certain groups, including teens that have sex frequently, gay and bisexual men who are practicing risky sex and those who trade sex for drugs, say county health officials. The county issued a "syphilis alert" to emergency rooms, urgent care centers, health clinics, infectious disease experts and doctors who treat AIDS, asking them to screen patients for syphilis.
"We're not fooling around with this; this disease can kill," said Dr. Elizabeth MacNeill, Pima County's chief medical officer. "It can be deadly to an unborn baby, it can cause birth defects, it can cause brain damage in anyone who isn't treated in time. The problem is that we had gotten this under such good control, many doctors haven't seen syphilis in recent years and won't know what the first signs are or what they mean. That has to change now."
Total Pima County syphilis cases climbed to 94 last year, up from 30 in 2000, according to county records. State figures show that the county's syphilis rate had dropped to less than one case per 100,000 people in 1998, a low not seen since the 1950s. But by 2001, the disease rate tripled to 2.6 cases per 100,000. That tops the national rate of 2.2 cases per 100,000 in 2001.
About one-third of Pima's new syphilis cases last year were among gay and bisexual men, with 10 percent of them also having HIV infection. "This is a major group getting syphilis now here and across the country. They are way over-represented in this resurgence," said MacNeill. "We suspect it's because a lot are not practicing safe sex."
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.