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Cook County has most syphilis cases in U.S.
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2011-11-23

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According to new data released from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Cook County, Ill. is first among the U.S. counties documenting reported cases of syphilis, according to the Huffington Post.

Cook County had 799 reported cases of syphilis in 2010; Los Angeles County, New York County, San Francisco County and Miami-Dade County, Fla., round out the top five.

Dr. Bechara Choucair, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, told CBS Chicago that cases had declined in Chicago in recent years, but that "we are seeing an uptick and that's the concern we have right now." Dr. Susan Gerber of the Cook County Department of Public Health noted an increase in suburban Cook County last year—specifically, a 72-percent increase in primary and secondary cases.

Gerber told CBS that number is likely "just the tip of the iceberg," as many people have not gotten tested.

Amy Poore, director of public relations for the Cook County Department of Public Health, told Windy City Times, "We knew, just based on our own surveillance, that the rates are on a continual increase. We know that, based on this report from the CDC, we are in line with the national trends."

"But, at the time, we are limited because we don't have any syphilis-prevention funds; they were taken away [a few years ago]. What we do have is our internal task force that we're putting together that'll put materials together to go out and we can utilize our partners so we can get prevention messages back out in the community. It's just really difficult when you have no funding to do it." (She stressed that the department's jurisdiction only covers the suburban Cook County area, not Chicago.)

USA Today reported that the syphilis rate fell 1.6 percent overall from 2009 to 2010—its first decrease in a decade. However, the rate among young Black men rose 134 percent since 2006, with the rate rising sharply among young African-American gay and bisexual men.

According to the CDC's website, symptoms of syphilis include sores (chancres), fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, patchy hair loss and non-itching rashes on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. It is easy to cure in its early stages; a single intramuscular injection of the antibiotic penicillin will cure a person who has had the disease for less than a year.

The CDC's report, "Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2010," is at www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/default.htm.


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