- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Health officials are investigating a spike in syphilis cases in West Virginia to determine how to prevent further cases of the sexually transmitted disease.

The number of early syphilis cases in West Virginia jumped from 10 in 2010 to 62 in 2014, a 520 percent increase, according to data posted on the Department of Health and Human Resources’ website. Early syphilis includes primary, secondary and early latent stages of infection.

Thirty-nine cases have been diagnosed so far this year, with clusters in Berkeley, Cabell, Monongalia and Wood counties, said Dr. Loretta Haddy, director of the DHHR’s Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services.

“Any cluster or outbreak of a reportable disease or condition is important to track from a public health standpoint,” Haddy told the Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/1JRkn6j). “The DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health is beginning an analysis of the information which is being collected so we know where and how to intervene and prevent further disease.”

Patients can be co-infected with hepatitis or HIV, she said.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department has been monitoring the increase in syphilis cases in Cabell County since late 2014, said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, the department’s health director.

Kilkenny said he can’t yet say what factors are associated with the outbreak.

Cabell County’s syphilis cases include several cases of HIV co-infection, he said.

“We’re trying to identify any groups of people deemed high-risk and maintain contact with them,” Kilkenny said. “We hope to educate and raise awareness - we need to raise awareness of syphilis especially amongst the physician community, because this disease has been fairly well gone - not completely eradicated - but there are a great many physicians who have never seen a case of it. We need to educate our providers on what to watch for, and that will help us identify cases.”

Syphilis can cause other health problems later in life if it is not treated properly in the early stages, Kilkennny and Haddy said.

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Online:

DHHR, West Virginia Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 2010-2014: https://bit.ly/1LXqtrM

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.


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