Detroit Syphilis Prevention Efforts Likely To Halve Number of New Cases in 2003 Compared With Last Year
Detroit health officials on Wednesday announced that they have made "long strides" in combating the spread of syphilis, which can cause brain damage, heart disease, arthritis and death if left untreated, the Detroit News reports. In 2001, Detroit reported 348 new cases of syphilis -- more than any other city in the country. However, the number of reported cases declined each quarter in 2002, and officials said that the city will likely reduce its total number of syphilis cases by 50% in 2003, compared with the total number of new cases reported in 2002 (Lewis, Detroit News, 10/16). The CDC sent a letter to Detroit Health Department officials in the summer of 2001 urging the agency to use "every available state and local resource" to fight the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/20/02). From January to September of this year, 149 new syphilis cases were reported, a 57% decrease from the 343 cases reported during the same period in 2002. According to the News, the decline in new infections can be attributed to intensified public awareness campaigns and community outreach programs, an increased number of staff and expanded training in the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Detroit Health Department. Carla Merritt, a state epidemiologist, said that the health department has collected information from individuals at risk for syphilis infection to develop prevention programs that specifically target those groups. Dr. Noble Maseru, director of the Detroit Health Department, said, "I am very pleased and not at all surprised at the decrease," adding, "By adding additional resources and enhancing testing, a decrease was inevitable" (Detroit News, 10/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.