Charlotte Observer (02.27.12) - Monday, February 27, 2012
Diagnosed syphilis cases in Mecklenburg County jumped 138
percent in 2009, prompting health officials there to step up
STD prevention education and free testing efforts to combat
"Syphilis is not something that happened in the past," said
Linda Flanagan, HIV/STD community services manager for the
county. "It's still a concern and we want to be sure people
know that and know how to protect themselves." Although a
slight increase in documented syphilis also was seen in 2010,
that annual figure was closer to normal, Flanagan noted.
A media campaign featuring radio ads aiming to increase
awareness of the 2009 spike was launched earlier this month by
the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Flanagan suggested
funding was allocated for the effort due to the fact the
county boasts the state's highest syphilis rates.
Although Flanagan noted African-American men who have sex with
men are the most affected group, she said no group should be
complacent. Syphilis "is not a respecter of persons," she
Often initially asymptomatic, the disease can be easily
treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Undiagnosed and
untreated, syphilis can escalate to organ damage, paralysis,
blindness, dementia and death.