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Syphilis outbreak confirmed in Oklahoma County

(KOKH/FILE)

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department has confirmed a syphilis outbreak in Oklahoma County.

The department reports that over 75 cases of syphilis have been diagnosed and are believed to be connected to a specific social network "between the ages of 14 and 47 years old". Officials have not stated what network they believe to be responsible. They believe the increase is due to drug use, exchanging sex for money or drugs or having multiple sex partners.

The department has activated its outbreak response procedures which will launch investigations, testing and begin treatment. Syphilis can be spread by direct contact of a sore during vaginal, anal or oral sex and can spread from infected mother to child.

The following are signs of different syphilis stages: A person with primary syphilis generally has a sore or sores at the original infection site. These sores can be firm, round and painless. Secondary syphilis symptoms include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes and fever. The signs and symptoms of early syphilis can be mild and might not be noticed. During the latent stage, there are no signs or symptoms. Tertiary or third-level syphilis is associated with severe medical problems impacting the heart, brain and other organs.

OC-CHD released the following tips to reduce the spread of syphilis:

  • Being in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for syphilis and does not have syphilis is the best way to avoid syphilis.
  • If a sexual partner is currently infected with syphilis or has recently undergone treatment, abstain from vaginal, anal or oral sex until a healthcare provider states the person is no longer contagious.
  • Use latex condoms every time you have sex. Sometimes sores occur in areas not covered by a condom. Contact with these sores can still transmit the infection.

Have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for syphilis and/or other STIs. All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit and again during their third trimester.

Those who believe they have syphilis can visit one of OC-CHD's three clinics from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.

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