Michigan: Syphilis Outbreak in Flint Coming to a Close, Officials Say
August 20, 2008
Genesee County health officials say the largest outbreak of syphilis in years appears to be waning. "Based upon the diagrams I have seen so far, the outbreak has already peaked, and we are on the downslide," said Mark Valacak, county Health Department spokesperson.
So far this year, officials have confirmed 70 syphilis cases, representing a 400 percent increase over cases logged in all of 2007. The majority of cases in 2008 have been among people in their 30s and 40s. Valacak said the outbreak appears to have been mostly in heterosexuals and in commercial sex workers in Flint. Three of the cases also were co-infected with HIV, he said.
The outbreak began in late spring, and since then county officials have been working with local media outlets and health care providers to raise awareness. The county has also set up mobile testing sites to detect more cases.
In addition, the Health Department brought in experts from Detroit, the site of a similar outbreak several years ago, to train staff on how to do outreach to those most at risk, particularly prostitutes.
Valacak said the outbreak underscores a behavioral study performed by the Health Department last year. The survey found that over 50 percent of respondents in Genesee County did not use a condom with a new sex partner, he said. "We try to do a good job of educating people about this," he said. "The only way you can be certain is about yourself. You can't be sure your partner is monogamous."
8.19.2008; Todd A. Heywood