Tests urged for the sexually active
Angela Townsend - Reporter
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Local health officials are so concerned about what they've labeled a syphilis outbreak that they are asking medical providers to screen all sexually active patients -- particularly young people -- for the disease.
Today, top medical officials in Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Cuyahoga County are sending out a joint public health alert letter to hospitals and medical clinics in Cuyahoga County.
Physicians and other medical providers who conduct screenings for sexually transmitted diseases are urged to follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which call for testing anyone for syphilis who tests positive for any other STD, and for testing all pregnant women at least twice during their pregnancy.
How bad is the outbreak?
From June 2006 through June 2007, 26 cases of active or early latent syphilis were reported in Cuyahoga County. That translates to an incidence rate - the number of new cases for a given period of time and a specified population - of 1.8 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Cleveland Department of Public Health.
For the next 17 months, through November 2008, the number of cases skyrocketed to 123. From April through November of last year, the 71 reported cases represented a incidence rate of 8.2 cases per 100,000 people.
Officials don't know why the current spike in numbers is happening now. But they do know that it is cyclical, said Dr. Ann Avery, medical director for the Cleveland Department of Public Health. "Syphilis tends to go in waves somewhere between seven and 10 years," she said.
The numbers could go up again before they go down.
See: Cleveland, Cuyahoga County health officials report syphilis outbreak