Sedgwick County Health Department Investigating Syphilis Outbreak

By: News Release Email
By: News Release Email

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Sedgwick County Health Department is currently investigating a syphilis outbreak. Twenty-four syphilis cases were reported to the state from the Sedgwick County area for 2008.

During 2007, there were only three cases of syphilis in Sedgwick County. A total of 53 syphilis cases were reported statewide last year.

Sedgwick County health officials have identified, contacted, tested and given treatment to numerous contacts of infected individuals.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. The time between exposure and symptoms may last up to 90 days. Syphilis has three stages; the first stage is primary syphilis and takes the form of a painless sore.

This stage can last from 1-5 weeks and disappear without treatment. Secondary syphilis may take the form of a rash that typically appears on the trunk of the body, palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. This stage can last anywhere from 2-6 weeks. After symptoms of primary and secondary disappear, tertiary syphilis may damage organs including the brain, nerves, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints.

Late signs and symptoms may include not being able to coordinate muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death. Syphilis can be treated at any stage with antibiotics.

Many people infected with syphilis do not have symptoms for years although they are at risk for complications without treatment. Pregnant women and their fetuses are of greatest concern since syphilis may be transmitted to the developing fetus and cause deformities or complications.

You cannot tell if someone has syphilis by looking at them. To prevent infection or disease, follow these guidelines:

• Abstain from sexual contact or only have sexual contact within a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

• Get tested for syphilis if you suspect you have the disease or have had contact with an infected individual. Contact your physician or local health department for testing.

To make an appointment for syphilis testing at the Sedgwick County Health Department, call 660-7300.
If you have questions about syphilis, visit There you will find a fact sheet with more information about the disease.

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