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U.S. News

Syphilis Cases on the Increase in New York City

August 13, 2007

After declining in the late 1990s, syphilis cases have shot up in New York City, health officials are warning. In the first quarter of 2007 there were 260 syphilis cases, more than double the number for the same period last year, reports the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While recently concentrating among men who have sex with men (MSM), more syphilis cases are showing up in women after a decade-long lull. There were 10 female cases in the first three months of 2007. Health officials believe the female cases are tied to male bisexual sex, and they are asking women to be aware of their partner's sexual history. In the last few years, New York men with syphilis reported more frequent bisexual activity than syphilis-infected men in other US cities, said Dr. Stuart Berman, a CDC epidemiologist.

Local and federal officials theorized the jump in syphilis cases could be due to several factors, including substance abuse tied to more frequent and risky sex; unprotected sex by HIV-positive persons; HIV complacency and treatment optimism; and "condom fatigue."

The current outbreak is centered in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. The cases are mostly African Americans and Hispanics. However, incidence of the STD among white men is three times that of the first quarter of last year.

The health department is alerting residents about the problem and asking health care providers to be vigilant with screening, said Dr. Susan Blank, the city's commissioner for STD prevention and control. The department offers free and confidential testing at its public clinics, as well as confidential notification of sex partners.

Back to other news for August 2007

Adapted from:
New York Times
8.12.2007; Sarah Kershaw

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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.
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