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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NORTH CAROLINA: Mecklenburg County Health Officials Warn of Spike in Syphilis, How to Recognize Signs
Glenn Burkins
February 27, 2012
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 the spike.

"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 said.

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.