BEND, OR -- State public health officials have launched an awareness campaign due to the jump in cases of one particular sexually transmitted disease. "We thought syphilis was going to be eradicated some time ago and so we weren’t really expecting this rise," Holly Nyquist, Clinic Coordinator for Deschutes County Health Services, tells KBND News. "There are physicians who have never seen a case of syphilis because it’s just been very uncommon. It needs to get back on the radar of the provider community so that when they see someone that comes in with a suspicious lesion or syndrome that they think about syphilis."
The CDC recorded only 30 cases of syphilis in Oregon in 2007, compared to an expected 500 this year. Nyquist says local numbers are much lower than statewide stats – Deschutes County has seen seven cases so far this year; but, that's compared to just one in 2007. "The reason for that, we don’t really know, but we know we can reduce the transmission of syphilis through condom use and through testing of people who are at higher risk," she says. But, screenings don't stop with high-risk groups. "It’s important that pregnant women get tested for syphilis. Historically, we’ve only gotten tested at early prenatal care and then they don’t test again. Now, what they’re saying is women who are pregnant should be tested in the third trimester, then again at delivery because our congenital syphilis cases – meaning babies who are born with syphilis – have risen alarmingly in the state; not locally, but in the state." Syphilis is highly curable with antibiotics, if caught early.
Nyquist is also worried about Gonorrhea, which has tripled in Deschutes county in the last two years. Confidential screenings for syphilis and gonorrhea are available at County health Services.