Los Angeles County Health Department Evaluates Syphilis ‘Outbreak’
Public health officials in Los Angeles County yesterday presented details of a syphilis outbreak that began almost a year ago and stated that the "outbreak had been contained," the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials indicated that 53 cases of the disease, mostly among gay and bisexual men, were recorded in the last six months, bringing the total to 144 cases since the outbreak began last March. However, most of the infections are not new and seem to have occurred near the beginning of last year -- a "signal" to health officials that the outbreak is slowing. An anti-syphilis campaign, begun last spring when the outbreak was discovered, "has succeeded in finding and treating people with the disease," but there is "little indication" that the rate of unprotected sex in the gay and bisexual community has dropped, according to John Schunhoff, COO for the county's public health department. These findings "bode ill," not only for the transmission of syphilis, but also for HIV, which is "more easily" transmitted in the presence of syphilis sores. Kyle Bernstein, a state epidemiologist who analyzed the syphilis outbreak, said "more than half" of the men with the disease were already HIV-positive, meaning they "knowingly engag[ed] in unprotected sex" despite the risk of transmitting HIV to their partners (Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.