What you should know about increase in syphilis cases in Houston

HOUSTON – The number of syphilis cases in Houston is up by 59 percent just in the first half of 2018, according to the Houston Health Department.

There have been 263 reported cases in the first six months of 2018 compared to 165 during the same period in 2017.

Houston health officials said that, in the early 2000s syphilis was close to being eliminated but since then, every few years, they have seen a spike in cases.

“We urge anyone who has had multiple sex partners, women of childbearing age and gay and bisexual men who engage in anonymous sex to get tested immediately,” said Marlene McNeese Ward, assistant director at the department.

What you should know about syphilis:

  • Syphilis symptoms aren't always noticeable. A person may not even know they’re infected. Syphilis may start with a painless sore that usually goes away in three to six weeks.
  • Other symptoms include swollen glands, patchy hair loss and a non-itchy rash on your hands or the soles of your feet.

“You may have syphilis, and later on, a few years, you may discover you have damage to your organs, internal organs,” said Porfirio Villarreal, with the department.

  • There’s been an increase in syphilis cases among women. Last year in Houston, there were 30 reported cases. So far this year, there are 47 cases.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with an STD, you’re at a much higher risk for infection. 
  • One way to reduce your risk: Make sure your partner wears a condom every time you have sex. 
  • You can go to your doctor or a sexually transmitted disease clinic to get tested.

Call the Houston Health Department to see where there’s a testing location closest to you. Information on testing sites and syphilis is available by calling the department’s HIV/STD information hotline at 832-393-5010.

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