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 The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) has declared a syphilis outbreak in Houston and Harris County.The agency has reported seen a 97 percent increase in new cases of syphilis cases during the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same time period last year. The outbreak marks a trend reversal as it comes after yearly decreases in new syphilis infections between 2008 and 2011.

Between January and August of this year, 318 cases of infectious syphilis cases, known as primary and secondary syphilis, were reported. The number of cases totaled 264 in 2011.

Approximately 39 percent of people with infectious syphilis this year also tested HIV positive. Houston’s last syphilis outbreak occurred in 2007.

HDHHS urges immediate testing for syphilis for:

  • men who have sex with men;
  • people who engage in anonymous sex;
  • anyone who has had multiple sex partners; and
  • people who test positive for other sexually-transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia and HIV.
  • HDHHS strongly recommends that medical providers, particularly those that provide health care services for men, determine if their patients are at increased risk for syphilis. HDHHS also urges medical providers to offer testing for syphilis, immediately report syphilis to their local health department and provide prompt treatment to infected people and their sexual partners.

HDHHS has intensified syphilis detection and community field work by disease intervention specialists who refer people at high risk to testing sites.

It has also expanded the schedule of its HIV/STD mobile clinic to provide education, counseling and testing services directly to the community, especially high-risk or hard-to-reach populations. The mobile clinic provides confidential testing for syphilis, HIV, gonorrhea, Chlamydia and hepatitis C.

HDHHS offers testing and treatment services at:

Sharpstown Health Services, 6201 Bonhomme

Sunnyside Health Center, 4605 Wilmington

Northside Health Center, 8504 Schuller

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