SYPHILIS: Rates Down in California, Nation
Mirroring a trend seen throughout the U.S., syphilis rates "are falling steeply" in the Bay Area and most other California communities, according to a recently released report, "The Social and Health Landscape of Urban and Suburban America." The San Jose Mercury News reports that among the nation's 25 largest cities, the rate fell 75% from 1990 to 1996, a drop attributable "to heightened awareness of safe sex, plummeting rates of crack addiction and aggressive tracking and treatment efforts." Thirteen cities, including Oakland, saw a 90% decline. In some parts of California, the infection rate was significantly lower than the national rate. For instance, in Santa Clara County, where the rate stands at one-tenth the national rate, there were only eight confirmed syphilis cases last year, compared to 69 a decade ago. Dr. Sara Cody of Santa Clara County's communicable disease control office said that "health officials have assigned investigators to every infected person, sending them out to locate the individual, provide treatment and offer counseling on how to avoid transmission." She added, "When there are just a scattering of cases here and there, you can find people and make sure they're educated and treated." The report indicates that rates are down in other California counties: Only one case was reported in Santa Cruz County in 1997, with two in San Mateo County, none in Contra Costa County and 7 in Alameda County. However, Fresno County, currently struggling with a crack addiction problem, has an incidence of syphilis 25 times higher than Santa Clara County. Also, there continues to be an increasing racial disparity as the syphilis rate for blacks is 40-60% higher than whites, which may be attributed to access to care issues (Krieger, 7/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.