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San Antonio struggling with rising syphilis numbers

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Lisa Oldson, MD Jan. 14, 2013

While it's far from the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the U.S., syphilis remains a significant concern in many parts of the nation. In particular, KHOU TV news in Houston, Texas, reports that San Antonio has been struggling to diagnose and treat the rapidly increasing cases of syphilis in the area. This effort was triggered when the city's health director recorded 18 infants born with congenital syphilis in Bexar County during 2012.

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause painless sores on the genitals, anus and rectum in the primary stage. Though the sores often disappear within three to six weeks regardless of treatment, not receiving care will cause syphilis to progress into the secondary stage, which causes skin rashes and additional sores.

Those people who do not initially receive treatment for syphilis may experience more troublesome health issues. About 15 percent of individuals who have not been treated can develop latent syphilis, which can lead to symptoms including problems with muscle coordination, numbness, paralysis, gradual blindness and even dementia. As the disease progresses, it can also cause severe damage to internal organs, eventually resulting in death.

San Antonio's Metropolitan Health Director Thomas Schlenker encourages pregnant women to be tested for syphilis. Five of the 18 babies born with congenital syphilis in 2012 died during birth.

All too often [expecting mothers getting treatment] is not happening now, even though the opportunity is there," Schlenker told KHOU news.

If you're concerned about syphilis, STDs or safer sexual practices, consider visiting an STD Testing Center in San Antonio for additional information.

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