Lee County Reports a Spike in Syphilis Cases

Aug 11, 2017

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County says there’s been a spike in confirmed cases of infectious syphilis in the county. They’re calling the increase alarming.

Lee County is experiencing a 39 percent increase in reported cases of infectious syphilis as of July compared with this time last year. So far this year, Lee County has 106 cases of confirmed early syphilis which means a person was infected within a year before testing positive as opposed to the 92 cases for all of 2016. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease or STD. Area 8 STD program director with Florida’s Department of Health, Dianna Pratt, said people are being careless.

“We’re just seeing a lot more people having sex without using condoms, having multiple partners, anonymous sex,” said Pratt. “It’s really getting out of control. A huge number of the cases are new cases. We are also seeing people who had never previously tested positive for syphilis and are now testing positive and so they could be older cases and maybe they just never got tested.”

While syphilis is curable, an infected person must be treated as quickly as possible. It has several stages with symptoms appearing within one to 12 weeks after sex.  Symptoms are often internal, so the person does not know they’re infected.  The only way to know is to be tested.

Symptoms can include a painless sore in the genitals or mouth, swollen lymph glands, and a rash.

If untreated, syphilis can lead to blindness, dementia, paralysis, deafness, loss of balance, and miscarriage or passing of the infection during pregnancy or childbirth.