The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

October 31, 2013

Syphilis on the rise in Garfield County

ENID, Okla. — Syphilis cases in Garfield County are on the increase — enough so that health officials are calling for people who might be at risk to get tested.

Ten early syphilis cases were reported in Garfield County during all of 2012. So far this year, 18 new cases have been reported. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has declared a syphilis outbreak among young adults in Enid and the surrounding areas.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can have significant health outcomes if left untreated. Health officials also are concerned that the outbreak can spread to other counties.

“The good news is that syphilis can be identified by examination and testing, cured with antibiotics, and through disease investigation, the spread of syphilis can be stopped,” said Chad Newton, Garfield County Health Department administrative director. “We want to encourage people to seek testing and treatment if they have been having unprotected sex.”

County health departments offer free, confidential testing and treatment, Newton said.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection spread through sexual or intimate contact, including kissing when a syphilis sore is present in the mouth.

Often, the primary sore, called a chancre, develops during the early stage of the disease. However, it may go unnoticed, as it is painless and can be on or in a man’s or woman’s sex organs, anus or mouth. Usually the sore will go away even without treatment, but the disease still can be passed along unless it’s treated.

Other symptoms of syphilis include rashes that appear as rough, red or reddish-brown spots on the palms of hands and bottoms of the feet, swollen lymph glands, sore throat and fatigue.

Early detection and treatment prevent further damage from the disease and also may reduce the risk for HIV transmission.

Untreated syphilis can damage major organs, especially the brain and blood vessels, as well as cause serious birth defects.

“There are many effective ways to prevent, diagnose and treat syphilis and other STDs,” Newton said. “Consistent condom use is one effective way to prevent becoming infected with STDs, including syphilis. Once infected, STD screening and early diagnosis are vital to prevent serious health consequences and increased transmission. Screening is particularly important, since many STDs often have no signs or symptoms.”

For more information about syphilis and other STDs, go to hivstd.health.ok.gov or cdc.gov/std.

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