Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: February 23, 2012
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) reported today a sharp increase in Syphilis cases among men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2011, 76 cases of early syphilis were reported to DPH compared with 23 cases for the same time period in 2010. Over 90% of these cases were among MSM with the majority occurring in New Castle County.
The Delaware data demonstrates the vital role that safer sex practices and sexually-transmitted disease testing play in prevention and treatment.
The increase in cases may be part of a larger trend across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increases among MSM have been reported in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Southern California, Miami, and New York City over the past several years. In these cases, a corresponding high rate of Human Immunodeficiency (HIV) co-infection have also been documented in these outbreaks, ranging from 20 percent to 70 percent.
Although syphilis infection occurs from persons with syphilitic sores who are in the early stages of the disease, many of these sores are unrecognized. Thus, transmission may occur from persons who are unaware of their infection. Many people infected with syphilis in the later stages do not have any symptoms for years, yet if untreated, can lead to damage throughout the body including neurological and cardiovascular complications. Syphilis also increases the risk of HIV infection and, for women, can cause problems during pregnancy and for the newborn.
In most cases, syphilis is easily treated with a single injection of penicillin. Penicillin will also stop syphilis infection in contacts that may not yet show symptoms or signs. For further information on syphilis symptoms, prevention, and treatment, call Delaware Division of Public Health's STD Program at 302-744-1050
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.