Oregon launches campaign addressing syphilis

Expect to see signs on buses and MAX trains raising awareness about the disease.

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Expect to see signs on buses and MAX trains raising awareness about syphilis as Oregon has launched a campaign to stem the epidemic spread of the disease.

The Portland area has the fifth-highest number of cases per capita in the nation and the state ranks eighth.

“It’s gone from almost nothing to a substantial number,” said Dr. Sean Schafer, a medical epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Division. “We’ll have 500 cases this year.”

That compares with 30 statewide in 2007. Almost all the cases – 90 percent – are in men. Two-thirds are in men who have sex with men. Nearly half of patients are also infected have HIV.

Nobody really knows what’s behind the epidemic though they suspect is has to do with the improved drugs to treat HIV infections. They essentially freeze the virus, preventing it from multiplying. Patients who stick to their medications are not infectious, prompting men to fling condoms to the wind, Schafer said.

(SOURCE: OregonLive.com)

The Health Division indicated that technology has increased the likelihood of the spread of STDs.

With the help of smartphone apps and websites, the ease of meeting people for anonymous sex is playing a role in the spread of the disease, Schafer said. The anonymity then makes it harder for public health officials to find people who might have been infected and who may be unknowingly spreading syphilis.

Syphilis is increasing in the U.S. as a whole, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though not as dramatically as it is in Oregon. The national rate rose from 4.6 cases per 100,000 population to 5.5 cases per 100,000 population in 2013. The latest nationwide data available from CDC date back to 2013.

(SOURCE: Statesman Journal)

It’s unclear how much the state is spending on the awareness campaign.

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