Syphilis outbreak in area
Student Life Editor
So far this year, 11 cases of syphilis have been reported in Comanche County, which is a 300 percent increase from 2013.
Brandie O’Connor, Comanche County Health Department Administrative Director, said the trend is more concerning than the actual number of reported cases.
“The problem is that we saw, prior to our June date that we were looking at, there had only been three cases,” O’Connor said, “so regardless of history or anything like that, when we are looking at it from a trend perspective, when you see that big of a jump in your numbers in a very short amount of time…we realize that we have an issue.”
This specific outbreak involves a specific population, O’Connor said: “The people at high risk for syphilis due to this specific outbreak include men who have sex with men, people who have multiple sex partners, IV drug users and people who have sex with anonymous partners, including those met online,” she said in a press release.
O’Connor said the problem isn’t so much that the number is huge.
“It is a huge increase,” she said. “The number of contacts that we had for each of those people was significant,” O’Connor said. “If we are talking about this particular outbreak, we are finding that people are literally meeting on apps or they are locating each other on apps.”
By meeting on apps, people are at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases “that may be treatable,” O’Connor said, “but there are also sexually transmitted diseases, HIV being one of them, that aren’t treatable.”
As is routine, the Comanche County Health Department responded to the outbreak by sending out nurses to meet with people who tested positive for syphilis.
“If we have a positive,” O’Connor said, “we have nurses that go out, or investigators so to speak; they are called Disease Intervention Specialists, but they go out and start having some conversations.”
O’Connor said to prevent and diagnose syphilis, consistent condom use and limiting sex partners will greatly reduce one’s risk of infection.
“Once infected,” she said, “STD screening and early diagnoses are vital to prevent serious health problems and increased transmission, or spreading of syphilis. Screening is particularly important since many STDs often have no signs or symptoms.”
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