- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2008

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) A syphilis outbreak that is afflicting men and women of all ages has attracted the attention of state epidemiologists.

“What we’re seeing is kind of strange,” said Tangye Harris, regional supervisor of the Virginia Epidemiological Response Team of the Department of Health.

“Actually, there’s no one group that stands out. The cases don’t follow a pattern of young, old, prostitutes, black or white,” said Miss Harris.

Syphilis can be treated at all stages with a single or series of injections of either penicillin or a similar antibiotic.

The number of cases in the Central Virginia Health District has grown steadily since 2005, when two new cases were reported. In 2006, there were seven new cases and, in 2007, 26.

Those new cases are among 58 existing cases in the district, which includes Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell, said Yvonne Walker, district lab manager.

The cases are reported in patients ranging from 19 or younger, to 79. Most cases are occurring in women aged 20-29.

Along gender lines, 32 women and 26 men have tested positive for syphilis.

The state response team is attempting to target the core transmitters possibly people who exchange sex for money or drugs.

“We try to make it known how important it is to share with us who their partners are in order to stop the spread of the infection,” Miss Harris said.

Everything is confidential, and someone named as a partner will not know the source, she said.

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