Two Detroit Health Officials Leave Department in Wake of Syphilis ‘Crisis’
Two Detroit Health Department employees have left the department within the past week in the wake of revelations that the city is undergoing a "syphilis crisis," the AP/Boston Globe reports. One employee was fired and another resigned, according to Loretta Davis-Satterla, director of the state health department's sexually transmitted disease division. However, she would not provide further details, stating that "the changes were made to bring about an overall improvement" in syphilis eradication efforts (AP/Boston Globe, 9/19). Wende Berry, a city health department spokesperson, added that the personnel movements were "part of a reorganization under way for months and not a response to external pressure" (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/19). As of July 30, Detroit had recorded 245 new cases of the sexually transmitted disease, which can cause brain damage, heart disease, arthritis and death if left untreated. The city expects to record more than 500 cases by the end of 2002. The CDC sent a letter to health department officials in the summer of 2001 urging the agency to use "every available state and local resource" to fight the disease, adding, "Your epidemic not only leads the nation, it also shows no sign of slowing" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/17). In addition, the agency said that the city's health department lacked properly trained employees, did not fill "key" positions and "lacked an adequate plan" for combating the disease. Detroit's epidemic comes at a time when the overall U.S. syphilis rate is at an "all-time low," according to the CDC. Less than 6,000 cases were reported nationwide in 2000, a fact CDC experts attribute to increased education, testing and treatment throughout the 1990s. CDC spokesperson Kitty Bina said that the agency is monitoring the situation in Detroit, which is expected to have the highest 2001 syphilis rate among cities in the country (AP/Boston Globe, 9/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.