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U.S. News

Ohio: Syphilis Outbreak Reported Here; Tests Urged for the Sexually Active

March 5, 2009

On Wednesday, top health officials sent out a joint public health letter to Cuyahoga County hospitals and clinics, urging area providers to screen all sexually active patients for syphilis.

The county logged 26 cases of active or early latent syphilis from June 2006 to June 2007, for an incidence rate of 1.8 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Cleveland Department of Public Health. In the following 17 months, through November 2008, the number of cases spiked to 123. From April through November of last year, the 71 reported cases represented an incidence rate of 8.2 cases per 100,000.

Several characteristics define the local outbreak since July 2007, including:

  • Heterosexual black men and women continue to be the most affected, along with men who have sex with men of all racial/ethnic groups.
  • 55 percent of those diagnosed were black men.
  • Roughly two-thirds of cases were in Cleveland, with the 44105 ZIP code recording the highest number of cases (eight) in the county.
  • Eight cases were diagnosed in youths ages 14-17, surprising health officials.
Officials in Cleveland, Shaker Heights, and Cuyahoga County are asking physicians and other health care providers who conduct STD screenings to follow CDC guidelines calling for syphilis testing of all pregnant women at least twice during their pregnancy and for anyone who tests positive for another STD.

Cleveland officials will continue working with HIV prevention providers to integrate syphilis education into their presentations, as well as partnering with faith-based groups and city school district officials to stem the outbreak. In addition, they are looking for resources to develop and fund public awareness campaigns targeting high-risk populations.

For more information about syphilis testing resources, or to read the full report on the disease's impact, visit or telephone the Cleveland Department of Public Health at 216-664-7080.

Back to other news for March 2009

Adapted from:
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)
03.04.2009; Angela Townsend

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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 News and Research on Syphilis in Midwestern U.S. States