Texas: Cases of Syphilis on the Rise
January 9, 2003
After declining steadily for almost a decade, syphilis cases in Tarrant County, Texas, almost doubled in 2002, county Health Department officials said Tuesday in a special report to Commissioners Court. The increase was mostly seen in the heterosexual community, particularly among prostitutes and those who barter drugs and sex, said Scott Hanlan, the department's assistant director of operations. The cases are clustered in Fort Worth and Arlington, he said.Adapted from:
Tarrant County's syphilis rate climbed from 6.9 cases per 100,000 people in 2001 to 14.2 cases per 100,000 in 2002; Dallas County's rate also nearly doubled in 2002, Hanlan said. There was not a similar increase in gonorrhea and chlamydia, and there was not a comparable syphilis increase in the state's other large metro areas of Harris County and Bexar County, Hanlan said.
"There is a strong correlation between co-infection of syphilis and HIV infection," said Dr. George Wendel, an obstetrician/gynecologist and STD specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Dallas. "This is important information in an era when we are trying to eliminate both diseases."
New US syphilis cases reached their lowest rate in 40 years in 1996, a decline that health officials then said could make possible the STD's elimination in the near future. But a November 2002 study by CDC found the syphilis rate rising nationally for the first time since 1990, especially among homosexual men.
The decline in syphilis may have been attributable to increased condom use caused by concerns about HIV/AIDS, said Dr. Tim Coleridge, chair of family medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center-Fort Worth. But with the advent of new drug therapies, "Unprotected sex is becoming commonplace. If people don't think they can get syphilis from oral intercourse they are wrong," Coleridge said.
Beginning in April, Tarrant County health officials have developed an action plan and a syphilis response team that is increasing disease surveillance, awareness and education, and targeting groups most at risk. The county Health Department is also working with the Texas Department of Health, Fort Worth's Health Department, the Dallas regional Syphilis Elimination Team, local medical providers and community organizations.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas)
01.08.03; Neil Strassman
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.