Delaware experiences outbreak of syphilis
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DDPH) recently announced an increase of syphilis cases in the state from 2010 to 2011, and it appears as though the vast majority of diagnoses are occurring among men who have sex with men (MSM).
According to the DDPH, the number of syphilis cases in the state rose from 23 in 2010 to 76 in 2011. Moreover, an estimated 90 percent of these diagnoses were made in MSM.
Officials said these statistics underscore the need for education on safer sex practices and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing.
Additionally, experts believe that the trend may be indicative of what's happening across the country, as similar outbreaks among MSM have been reported in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, southern California, Miami and New York City. In these regions, the syphilis infections are being joined by increased rates of HIV as well. It is known that syphilis increases a person's chances of becoming infected with HIV.
Syphilis can be asymptomatic, which may contribute to the spread of the STD because individuals may forgo testing before encounters with another sexual partner. If symptoms do appear, they typically include sores on the mouth, genitals or anus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syphilis is most prevalent in the Caucasian and African American MSM populations. Among individuals who only have heterosexual encounters, the STD is more common in the African American demographic.
In order to prevent the spread of STDs, individuals should practice safer sex by using a condom or dental dam with each encounter, as well as receive STD testing each time they have a new sexual partner.