Woe begot top spot

In most instances Detroit would be happy to be Numero Uno. However, this time it looks like the city has gained the unenviable distinction of leading the nation in syphilis. The Centers for Disease Control is expected to release a report at the end of this month showing that Detroit had the highest rates of syphilis in the country in 2001, with about 35 cases per 100,000 people. This represents a jump from the previous year when Detroit was rated fifth with about 22 syphilis cases per 100,000 people, says Mark Miller, interim STD project officer for Detroit’s Health Department.

“We had our low point in 1996, when we had 95 cases that year” says Miller. “And since then we have had a pretty steady increase with 351 cases last year.”

Miller attributes the increase to risky sexual behavior, such as not using condoms or having multiple partners. He says that when numbers are down, people are less vigilant about protecting themselves. Physicians also tend to overlook symptoms until syphilis rates increase. Some symptoms include genital sores, rashes and hair loss.

Miller says that while syphilis rates have gone down in Nashville and Indianapolis, which had the highest rates in the country, respectively, in 2000, Detroit’s numbers continue to climb.

The Health Department has alerted 700 area doctors of the increased syphilis rates, as well as 100 medical providers in Detroit and Wayne County. The department also is running ads about syphilis on the radio and buses. For more information call 313-876-4176.

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