Kalamazoo Gazette (06.19.12)
For the second year in a row, syphilis cases are increasing in Kalamazoo County, according to health officials there. The number of cases doubled from 2010 to 2011, and the county has logged 17 cases this year through mid-June, compared to 24 cases for all of last year.
“In Kalamazoo County, we are seeing an increase in syphilis among both men and women with same sex or opposite sex partners,” read a release published Monday by Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services. “Syphilis is making a comeback as a public health problem both locally and nationally.”
Syphilis is an STD that, if untreated, can cause long-term effects such as damage to internal organs, paralysis, dementia, and blindness, according to health officials. Although contagious, “it can’t be spread from contact with toilet seats, shared utensils, swimming pools or other objects,” the release explained. “Many people have no symptoms for years, and syphilis sores can go unrecognized, allowing spread from person to person without being noticed.”
At Western Michigan University, medical director Lisa Marshall said the university has only treated one student for syphilis in the past six years. “We’re not seeing the rise Kalamazoo is,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we have the most accurate numbers. Our students may go to urgent care or to the health department.” She added that WMU distributes health information and sells inexpensive condoms at its pharmacy.
Last November, state health officials also warned the public about rising chlamydia cases.
Kalamazoo County officials encouraged anyone who might be concerned about transmitting an STD to call the county so their partners can be contacted anonymously; telephone 269-373-5233 or visit www.inspot.org.