Health officials: syphilis rate continues to increase

WTAP News @ 11 - Health officials: syphilis rate continues to increase
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:45 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - “I’ve seen things here at the health department that in 30-something years as a nurse practitioner I’ve never seen before. So, it is much higher,” says Mid-Ohio Valley health department clinical services director, Rebecca Eaton. “We usually see one every five to ten years. So, to have 97, that tells me that we have a major problem.”

Eaton says that within the last year the rate of syphilis cases has steadily gone up in Wood County. The health department has treated 97 cases in the county alone.

Eaton says there is a correlation to the rise in syphilis and the criminal activity in the downtown area.

“Our spread is linked to the drug use. It’s linked to the prostitutions,” says Eaton.

Signs of syphilis can appear anywhere from weeks to years before becoming a problem

The disease can have serious complications and damaging effects to vital areas of the body.

“The brain, the eyes, the heart,” says Eaton. “Wherever it sets up home, it destroys.”

Eaton says adults aren’t the only ones who are at risk.

As there is also an increase in the number of babies positive for syphilis, which can be passed down from their mothers who are syphilis positive.

“The babies, they don’t show symptoms immediately for syphilis. It can be as much as five years before the damage is done,” says Eaton.

Eaton says that because of this increase in congenital syphilis, Parkersburg and Wood County could see drastic levels if something is not done to prevent it.

“When we start seeing the babies go up, the number of babies positive for syphilis or born to positive moms, that’s scary. It really is,” says Eaton. “Charleston at one point, I think it was last year where they were third in the nation for babies. We’re on track right now to beat those records. We don’t want to have that record.”

For more information on syphilis and how to best prevent it, click on the link for how to best protect yourself.