Syphilis cases on the rise

Health officials urge more testing

By Melanie Lawson - The Morning Show anchor
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The rate of syphilis cases is higher than it has been in 20 years and health officials are urging sexually active individuals to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

"Unfortunately, syphilis is on the rise in Duval County also,” said Dr. Kelli Wells, director of the Department of Health-Duval. “In an effort to address this problem, DOH-Duval has created a syphilis elimination work group with the goal of reducing the incidence and transmission of infectious syphilis in Duval County. The public benefits of this effort are significant: improved infant health; reduced health disparities, and improved collaborative public health infrastructure.

In 2015, 394 people were reported diagnosed with syphilis in Duval County, according to the Florida Department of Health. That's more than double the 151 cases reported in 2012.

Lakisha Cohen, the Florida Health Department’s STD program manager for Northeast Florida told our news partner WJCT radio that technology is partly responsible for the resurgence of the disease nationwide.

“We’re seeing an increased usage of dating apps, Facebook, Tinder, Grindr, Adam4Adam,” she said. “It’s become easier for people to find someone to have sex with.”

The Florida Department of Health said that the only way to avoid syphilis and other STDs is to not have sex. However, if you are sexually active, you can do the following to lower your chances of infection:

  • Be in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for syphilis and other STDs.
  • Use condoms the right way every time you have sex.
  • Talk to your health care provider about getting tested for syphilis and other STDs or locate a clinic near you for free, fast and confidential testing.
  • If you test positive for syphilis or other STDs, get treated right away and be sure your sexual partner is treated as well to reduce the risk of re-infection.

Health officials have also written letters to area OB-GYNs to notify them that syphilis is becoming more of an issue in the community and to remind them to screen pregnant women.

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