State health officials are sending a second warning about the rise in syphilis cases in Minnesota, following an ongoing review of cases since the increase was noted in the spring of 2002. State health officials are sending a second warning about the rise in syphilis cases in Minnesota, following an ongoing review of cases since the increase was noted in the spring of 2002.
Fifty cases of early syphilis infections have been reported in Minnesota for the first nine months of 2002 compared to 49 cases for the entire year of 2001, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Of the 50 syphilis cases this year, 44 are males and six are females. Thirty-four of the male cases are among men who have sex with men compared to just five cases in this group last year. MDH officials are recommending that physicians step up their screenings for syphilis among male clients along with encouraging people who may be at risk to get checked for syphilis.
“We have not seen the numbers decline yet this year and we’re going to keep pushing our message until we do,” said Dr. Harry Hull, Minnesota State Epidemiologist. “The good news is that our number of cases is relatively small compared to other cities that have experienced syphilis outbreaks,” he said.
Minnesota’s numbers are lower due to the quick and collective effort of local physicians, clinics, media, MDH funded community-based HIV/STD prevention programs, and organizations reaching men who have sex with men, state health officials said. “Our community partners are very important in keeping this situation in check,” Hull noted. “They all stepped up their outreach and screening efforts as soon as we notified them about the situation, and we commend them for that.”
More frequent STD screenings, every three to six months, are indicated for men at highest risk.
“We also want people to be checked if they have had unprotected sex. The more partners they have, the more at risk they are for getting syphilis,” Hull said. “Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but people need to go to their doctor or clinic to get tested and treated.” For people who don’t have a health care provider, testing and treatment are available at the Red Door Clinic in Minneapolis and the Room 111 Clinic in St. Paul.
Syphilis is spread through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex. Untreated syphilis can lead to blindness, brain damage, heart problems and even death. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of spreading syphilis if infected areas are fully covered by the condom.
For more information, contact MDH at (612) 676-5414.