Syphilis epidemic in New Orleans area causes public health alert

Syphilis epidemic in New Orleans area causes public health alert

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The state health department issued a public health alert about about a Syphilis epidemic in the New Orleans area.

That has Tulane infectious disease physician, Nicholas Van Sickels,very concerned.

"In Louisiana, we're the state of the second highest rates of Syphilis in the country and like the rest of the country, we have seen a rise in Syphilis since the early 2000's as well as Gonorrhea and Chlamydia," said Van Sickels, M.D.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals sent a public health alert in March to medical providers and community leaders. It says from 2012-2014, Syphilis cases more than tripled in the New Orleans area.

"The health department can't tackle this problem alone they issued this report to notify providers that we need to be testing for Syphilis on a more regular basis and talking to our patients about Syphilis and their sexual behaviors and their sexual risk factors," said Van Sickels.

Van Sickles biggest concern is the risk that comes with not treating Syphilis.

"It is wildly concerning because the two, HIV and Syphilis, drive each other and we see rates of them go up together and that's what worries me the most, because, I don't want people to get this disease which, while treatable, can if not treated, lead to all sorts of complications," said Van Sickels.

The key he says is for patients to get tested and for doctors to do more Syphilis screenings.

"It can be cured with good ole fashioned penicillin," said Van Sickels.

The public health alert from the Department of Health Hospitals also said Louisiana ranked number 1 in the country in 2014 for pregnant mothers passing Syphilis on to their babies. The latest figures from the state show rates are going down in the New Orleans area.

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