Doctors blame social media, dating apps for Nevada’s syphilis outbreak
Syphilis cases are on the rise in Clark County ‒ especially in Las Vegas, where officials issued a warning after registering a 128 percent increase in reported cases since 2012.
The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) declared an outbreak last week after admitting that 694 people have been diagnosed with the sexually transmitted disease. Of these new-onset cases in the county in 2015, 615 were reported among men.
The recent statistics continues the Silver State’s recent uptick: In 2014, Nevada had the highest rate of reported primary and secondary syphilis cases in the West, at a rate of 12.8 per 100,000 members of the population, the health district said.
While it is hard to tell whether the spike is linked to population increases or better detection rates ‒ which state health department said is a possibility ‒ some health officials are tying it to social media and dating websites such as Tinder.
According to a disease investigator at the health department in Las Vegas Elizabeth Adelman, authorities had “sought permission” to have a so-called passive presence on the online gay dating site Adam4Adam, so users can reach out to them for information on the disease. They are also trying to get access to other popular hookup apps, such as Tinder and Grindr.
“Our goal is to make people aware of the problem, encourage healthcare providers ‒ especially those who treat men ‒ to report cases to us so we can begin notifying partners, get them into treatment, and stop the spread,” Dr. Joe Iser, SNHD’s chief health officer said.
Taking educational outreach directly to the websites and apps is important because they are often used to arrange unprotected sex, especially among young people looking for quick and easy hookups, Adelman told AP. Not meeting in person first can make it harder to negotiate condom use, she said.
“As with most STDs… it’s people not consistently and correctly using condoms,” SNHD epidemiologist Tony Frederick agreed.
In neighboring California last week, health officials took the effort to the next level as the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to expand its Condom Availability Program to all middle schools in the district.
Syphilis outbreaks have appeared across the US in recent years, including in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Hawaii.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data published in November, in 2014 nearly 2,000 cases of syphilis were detected. Women were affected only in 9 percent of cases.
Syphilis has been around at least since the Roman times. Caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, it spreads through skin-to-skin sexual contact through small sores or lesions. First symptoms aren’t always apparent and can progress for decades, without treatment. If not treated correctly, it can cause long-term complications.
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is an STD that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis.
How is syphilis spread?
You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Sores can be found on the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, or on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis can also be spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.
What does syphilis look like?
Syphilis has been called ‘the great imitator’ because it has so many possible symptoms, many of which look like symptoms from other diseases. The painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump. The non-itchy body rash that develops during the second stage of syphilis can show up on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places. Syphilis can also affect the eye and can lead to permanent blindness. This is called ocular syphilis. You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all.
How can I reduce my risk of getting syphilis?
The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting syphilis:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results;
- Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex. Condoms prevent transmission of syphilis by preventing contact with a sore. Sometimes sores occur in areas not covered by a condom. Contact with these sores can still transmit syphilis.
Please use this LINK to find more information regarding syphilis.