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Shasta County: syphilis outbreak

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    Posted: July 21 2018 at 2:13pm

Shasta County doctors warn syphilis outbreak is at its worst stage

by Courtney Kreider

Saturday, July 21st 2018

REDDING, Calif. — The number of Syphilis cases in Shasta County are the highest they have ever been. Health professionals are warning sexually active men and women to get tested before they pass the disease on to others.

"Very few cases were reported to us for many years but in the last few years syphilis has been really increasing. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. It's become increasingly common here and it's affecting all kinds of people," County Health Officer, Andrew Deckert, said an overwhelming outbreak of syphilis has spread to sexually active men and women in Shasta County.

From 2006 to 2012 Shasta County saw zero to three cases of early stage syphilis each year.

In 2016 syphilis cases for the year grew to 24. This year the outbreak skyrocketed to 62 cases by May of 2018.

Doctor Heidi Bauer, the Chief of the STD Control Program for the California Department of Public Health said while public health has dealt with sexually transmitted diseases before, syphilis is most concerning for women who are or plan on becoming pregnant.

"More recently the concern has been syphilis among women, particularly women of child-bearing age and unfortunately pregnant women, which can lead to congenital syphilis which is an absolutely devastating disease," Bauer noted.

At a presentation at Dignity Health Mercy in Redding, Dr. Bauer demonstrated the range of severity.

"Syphilis has an impact on bone formation and soft tissue formation so there can be facial defects. The liver is often swollen and inflamed. The spleen is swollen and inflamed."

Syphilis has become more concerning to doctors because it is at its worst stages.

Infected women can pass the disease to their children, leading to mental health or behavioral issues for their children as they get older or possibly even killing them at birth.

So why the large outbreak? Deckert said the disease is often unnoticed.

"One of the reasons it's a big issue is because you don't feel symptoms a lot of times. You may have a small rash that goes away. You can have syphilis, you can transmit it to others and not even know you have it," Deckert explained.

Doctors say early detection is crucial. Syphilis is treatable, however the spread of it is not preventable at the time of delivery.

Bauer emphasized early detection is important. If positive, which women usually find out after their first prenatal exam if they have not been tested before, it is important to follow up with lab results and treatment.

"It basically treats the fetus at the same time it treats the mom," Bauer said.

Doctors recommend anyone who is sexually active, especially those with multiple partners, to get tested.

There are lab tests you can order online, but to avoid a false positive or non detection health professionals recommend getting tested at a lab or doctor's office.


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