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Nevada tops list of states with syphilis cases

By Bob Conrad

Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick today said syphilis is a growing concern in the Silver State.

He based his comments on recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC data for 2020 show Nevada is at the top of the list nationwide for syphilis cases and fourth in the nation for congenital syphilis.

Congenital syphilis is syphilis found in newborns. Babies are getting syphilis from mothers, which can lead to babies born with brain damage and other afflictions.

“These babies can be born with damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints,” Dick said. “That’s a serious issue that we have in Nevada.”

The pandemic is partly to blame, Dick added.

“The COVID-19 pandemic put enormous pressure on an already strained public health infrastructure,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “There were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, but STDs weren’t. The unrelenting momentum of the STD epidemic continued even as STD prevention services were disrupted.”

A reduction in public health services during the pandemic is partly attributed to why STDs increased in 2020.

While the total number of syphilis cases in Nevada pales in comparison to states like California, the Silver State is at 25 cases per 100,000 people – only slightly above Mississippi.

Nevada’s ranking as the top syphilis state coincides with STD awareness week.

“We do have a sexual health clinic here at the Health District, and we are offering walk-in Wednesdays on Wednesday afternoons when people can just walk in to receive services from 2 to 5 p.m.” Dick added. “We also [have] scheduled appointments throughout the week for our sexual health services.”

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