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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 26, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 52
Syphilis infections up 10% CDC says
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Syphilis infections up 10% CDC says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New syphilis cases increased by 10% in 2013, a new CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report says, with men who have sex with men accounting for more than 75% of the total.

According to the CDC report, the number of syphilis infections reported to the CDC in 2013 rose by more than 10% over the previous year, with 17,535 new cases. That represents the highest number of syphilis cases since 1995, the CDC said.

CDC doctors warned that the increase in syphilis cases may also indicate the 'very alarming' possibility that new HIV infections will also increase.

'Syphilis is like the canary in the coal mine for HIV,' Dr. Jill Rabin said. 'People are going to be positive for syphilis before they are diagnosed with HIV. This means that there is a potential increase in HIV cases.'

Rabin is co-chief of the division of ambulatory care in the Women's Health Programs-PCAP Services at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, New York.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection spread mainly through unprotected sexual contact, although it can also be spread from mother to fetus.

Because syphilis spreads though unprotected sex, and the new infections are concentrated among men having sex with men, health officials worry that HIV may be spreading at the same time. In fact, the CDC says that half of the men with syphilis are also infected with HIV.

The disease typically reveals itself with skin lesions at the point of infection, but as it develops it can attack the central nervous system and internal organs. In fact the characteristic syphilis lesions may make HIV transmission easier, the health news service MedicalXpress warned.

If diagnosed at an early stage, the disease is relatively easily treated with penicillin or other antibiotics, but treatment of advanced cases is more difficult.

Federal health officials called for more frequent screening for syphilis. Men having sex with anonymous partners may require testing as often as once every three to six months, the CDC said.

Fred Wyand, spokesperson for the American Sexual Health Association, told Reuters news service that people could be deterred from getting tested because of the stigma associated with having an STD.

'One of the great barriers to having sexual health conversations is the sense of embarrassment. People need to have frank, open conversations,' he said. 'It's not about sex. It's about health.'

In good STD news, the CDC also found that new gonorrhea infections were stable, while new cases of chlamydia declined from 2012 levels.

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