Florida County Experiences Increase in Syphilis Infections, Including Among Black Teenagers, Women
The number of syphilis cases in Hillsborough County, Fla., reported in the first quarter of 2007 were 54% more than the same period last year, and cases increased among teenagers and black women for "the first time in years," according to Hillsborough County Health Department Director Douglas Holt, the St. Petersburg Times reports.
Forty-six cases were reported during the quarter, according to Holt. Holt recently sent a letter to local health care providers alerting them of the trend. George Hughes, director of the department's sexually transmitted disease program, said black men who have sex with both men and women could be responsible for the increase in infections among black women, although some cases involved prostitutes and prison inmates.
Most of the increase in infections among teens occurred in blacks, Hughes said, adding that the department is focusing awareness efforts in the neighborhoods of those patients. "We're trying to target those areas ... as far as outreach, education and screenings to identify new cases," Hughes said. Distributing condoms at local high schools also could help prevent new infections, according to Hughes. Syphilis sores provide "the perfect portal for the transmission of HIV," Hughes said. "Our goal is to reduce [the syphilis infection rate] down to nothing," he said (Mohammed, St. Petersburg Times, 6/8).