In 2011, Hamilton County, Ohio was listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the sixth most affected area for syphilis in the United States. By 2016, it had fallen off of the CDC’s list altogether. After making huge strides in decreasing the number of cases of syphilis, the city of Cincinnati and the greater Hamilton County area have recently seen a sharp rise in syphilis cases.
In 2017, the Hamilton County Public Health Department reported that syphilis cases in the county had risen by over 20% from the previous year. The same report showed that the risk for syphilis was increasing greatly in people between ages 15 and 34. 70% of cases had occured in African-American men and 60% of those cases had occured in men who have sex with men.
Catching a syphilis infection in the primary stage is very important for preventing the infection from developing into a more serious condition and to stop the spread of it to others. Syphilis, if caught early enough, can be cured with antibiotics. After the primary stage, a syphilis infection can advance to later stages. During the secondary stage, symptoms include sores in the mouth, vagina or anus. Body rashes can start while an initial sore is healing or several weeks later. Other symptoms in this phase include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue.
The latent stage occurs when all of the previous symptoms are gone. If left untreated, syphilis will remain in the body even if no signs or symptoms are present. The consequences of late stage syphilis are very serious. It can occur decades after the initial infection and lead to paralysis, numbness, muscular and coordination problems and dementia. The late stage of syphilis damages internal organs and can lead to death.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to syphilis, you should have syphilis testing performed right away. Since symptoms are not always apparent, testing can sometimes be the only way to catch the infection early enough. There are many options for STD testing in Cincinnati and other regions of Ohio. If you test positive for syphilis, you should speak to a doctor about your treatment options.