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Syphilis rates rise in Broward County

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Broward County, Fla., has experienced a surge in syphilis rates. The sexually transmitted disease is curable in its early stages and can spread easily, prompting city health officials to urge residents to seek STD testing for the disease. The rising rates prompted the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to send out flyers encouraging STD tests for all residents.

Syphilis rates in Broward County
Broward County has double the syphilis rates of the rest of Florida, according to the AHF. Between 2000 and 2005, there was a surge of 400 percent in the county for the disease. In 2012, there were more than 600 reported cases in the county, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

"While Broward County has the highest rate of syphilis in the state of Florida, the good news is that syphilis is a curable disease - one best caught and treated early," said Albert Ruiz, director, of the Public Health Division for the AHF.

The AHF sent mail notices to more than 20,000 members of Broward County, which encompasses Fort Lauderdale and part of the Miami metro area. In the first 10 days after the notices were sent out, six people sought testing at the AHF Broward Wellness Center, which opened on Sept. 3, noted the Miami Herald.

Syphilis infections
Syphilis infections occur in three stages. The first stage involves a sore that forms at the point where syphilis entered the body. The sore is usually painless and will last three to six weeks, so it may go unnoticed, noted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second stage includes skin rashes around the mouth, genitals and anus. Though it can be irritating to some, the rash is often not itchy and can be confused with other conditions. Larger lesions may develop in the mouth, armpit and groin. Some experience fever, sore throat, headaches, hair loss, weight loss and other symptoms. These symptoms will disappear with or without treatment, but a lack of treatment can allow the disease to progress to the third stage, underscoring the importance of lab tests.

The third stage of syphilis can cause severe complications, ranging from memory loss to dementia and paralysis. The disease can damage internal organs and may lead to death. Approximately 15 percent of people infected with syphilis get to the third stage. Since the disease can pass through vaginal, anal and oral sex easily, it is important to seek testing.

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