Syphilis cases up again in Philly

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health saw a marked increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases in the first half of 2010. In addition to a 26 percent rise in the incidence of gonorrhea, to 2,876 reported cases so far this year, infectious syphilis cases are up 13 percent, according to Caroline C. Johnson, director of the health department’s Division of Disease Control.

There have been 114 cases of syphilis reported this year compared to 101 for the first six months of 2009. And while the numbers are relatively small compared with gonorrhea, syphilis is a more serious disease and the upward trend is troubling for public health officials.

Cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the infectious stages – have been increasing in Philadelphia and around the country in recent years, particularly in big cities and the South.

Men who have sex with men have accounted for the bulk of syphilis cases in the past, and they constituted 69 percent of the Philadelphia total last year. The health department recommends sexually active gay men get screened for the STD every three to four months.

And because mothers can pass syphilis on to their children during childbirth the department also recommends that women of child-bearing age who have had more than one partner in the past year get checked annually.

On Monday the Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued an advisory to doctors and other providers in the city about the surge of gonorrhea reports so far this year.

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