Syphilis Cases on the Rise in Several Regions of California, Despite National Decline
Syphilis cases are on the rise in several regions of California, despite soon-to-be-released CDC figures that show a nationwide decline, the Sacramento Bee reports. From 1995 to 1999, syphilis cases declined from 16,503 cases per 100,000 people to 6,634 cases, prompting the CDC to declare in October 1999 that eradication of the disease in the United States was "within reach." However, cases have recently increased in several regions of California, including Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles counties. In Sacramento County, 10 people have been diagnosed with either primary or secondary syphilis this year, compared to one case last year, and three have been diagnosed with latent infections. In San Francisco, syphilis cases nearly doubled from 42 in 1999 to 77 last year and are expected to show a similar increase this year. Los Angeles County has experienced a 39% increase in cases so far this year. Although most of the cases in San Francisco and Los Angeles have been detected in men who have sex with men, the Sacramento cases are in "people of various races, men and women of all economic backgrounds," the Bee reports. The rise in syphilis cases is of "particular concern" for health officials because it indicates a decline in safe sex practices and a "complacency" about HIV. Dr. Javeed Saiddiqui, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California-Davis Medical Center and the Center for AIDS Research Education and Service, said, "This is an offshoot of people not practicing safer sex all the time. They are exposing themselves not only to risk for HIV, but all other STDs," adding that syphilis sores leave a person more vulnerable to HIV infection (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 10/25). According to the Los Angeles Times, officials say that similar increases in syphilis case rates are occurring in San Diego, Boston, Chicago and Florida (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 10/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.