The rate of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis reported in the United States decreased during the 1990s; in 2000, the rate was the lowest since reporting began in 1941, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A look at Oregon Health Authority data shows that the Beaver State has seen a significant increase in the sexually transmitted infection from 2007 to 2012. In 2007, there were 0.7 cases per 100,000 people; however, that number jumped to 8.0 cases per 100,000 in 2012.
Hit particularly hard by syphilis has been the state’s most populous county and the county where Portland sits, Multnomah County. In 2012, Multnomah County reported 208 cases (27.4 per 100,000). The county reported 236 in 2013 and 212 cases in 2014.
Washington County and Clackamas County followed with 38 and 30 cases in 2012, respectively.
Oregon health officials say during 2012, men with HIV accounted for more than half of Oregon’s new early syphilis cases (57% or 178 out of 310). In the last decade, most of Oregon’s early syphilis cases have been in men who have sex with men.
Syphilis is a genital ulcerative disease, causes significant complications if untreated and facilitates the transmission of HIV infection. Untreated early syphilis in pregnant women results in perinatal death in up to 40% of cases.
Syphilis remains a major health problem, with increased cases occurring among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Cases among MSM have been characterized by high rates of HIV co-infection and high-risk sexual behaviors.