Major syphilis outbreak in Houston, Texas

You know what they say … things are bigger in Texas and apparently that includes their STD outbreaks.  Local health officials are reporting a nearly 100% increase in new infections of syphilis in the Houston and surrounding areas.

[source]  Syphilis is exploding in Houston and Harris County, local health officials said Wednesday.

Houston’s health department reported a nearly 100 percent increase in new infectious syphilis cases during the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same time period last year. The outbreak reverses a trend of syphilis cases decreasing between 2008 and 2011.

The department “strongly recommends that medical providers, particularly those that provide health care services for men, determine if their patients are at increased risk for syphilis,” the city said in a news release. The department “also urges medical providers to offer testing for syphilis, immediately report syphilis to their local health department and provide prompt treatment to infected people and their sexual partners.”

Syphilis, which can cause serious complications if left unchecked, is easily treatable with antibiotics.

A total of 318 infectious syphilis cases were reported in Harris County from January through August of this year, according to the Houston health department. The total for all of 2011 was 264.

The 2012 cases amount to 7.5 cases per 100,000 people, up from 4.2 through the same period in 2011. The recent high is 7.8 cases per 100,000 people in 2007.

Roughly 39 percent of people with infectious syphilis in 2012 also tested positive for HIV.

The health department, which has intensified syphilis detection and community field work and expanded the schedule of its HIV/STD mobile clinic, is urging immediate testing for syphilis for men who have sex with men; people who engage in anonymous sex; anyone who has had multiple sex partners; and people who test positive for other sexually transmitted disease.

Just last week, San Antonio health official began assigning case workers to follow syphilis-infected women through their pregnancies to ensure proper treatment because of the rising numbers of babies born with the disease there.

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