Douglas County sees spike in syphilis cases

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. -- The Douglas County Health Department says there has been a spike in reported syphilis cases.

According to Dawnelle Marshall, the Public Health Division director, usually the county gets only one reported case per year.

In a release sent out Monday, Marshall says there have already been 9 reported cases this year.

This isn't the only STD that has reported to be on the rise in Douglas County. Back in February, the health department announced that reported cases of gonorrhea have also seen a jump in 2014.

Officials gave tips on how to prevent the spread of syphilis in the following release:

An increase in reported syphilis cases has local Public Health officials concerned. "In Douglas County, we typically see about one case of syphilis each year," said Dawnelle Marshall, Public Health Division Director. According to Marshall, Douglas County had a total of one reported case of syphilis in 2013, and 9 cases have already been reported since January 1, 2014. Surrounding counties also have seen a substantial increase in syphilis cases.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the most frequently reported group of communicable diseases in Oregon. Any sexually active person can get syphilis through unprotected anal, vaginal, or oral sex. According to Marshall, "anyone with genital symptoms such as unusual body rash or sores in your mouth or genital area should stop having sex and see a medical care provider immediately." Left untreated, syphilis can lead to paralysis (not able to move certain parts of your body), numbness, blindness, dementia, and death.

Public Health officials recommend the following steps to reduce your risk of syphilis:

  1. Pregnant women obtain early prenatal care. Get screened during pregnancy.
  2. Use a condom if you have sex. Abstaining from sex is the surest way to prevent syphilis. If you choose to have sex, use a condom during any type of sexual contact.
  3. Ask your partner to be tested for sexually transmitted infections. Find out whether your partner has been tested for sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis. If not, ask whether he or she would be willing to undergo testing.
  4. Don't have sex with someone who has any unusual symptoms. If your partner has signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection, such as a genital sore or unusual body rash or sores in their mouth, don't have sex with that person.
  5. Get screened. Talk to your doctor about regular screening for syphilis or other sexually transmitted diseases. You may be at increased risk of syphilis if you have had syphilis or other sexually transmitted infections in the past, if you have a new sex partner, or if you have multiple sex partners.
  6. Know your sex partner. Sex with anonymous partners is risky. Knowing how to contact a past sexual partner helps Public Health break the cycle of continued syphilis transmission. Know your sex partner's name, address, phone number and how to locate them.