Syphilis Cases on the Rise in Hamilton County

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – A presentation was held today to discuss a rise of syphilis cases in Hamilton County.

According to the CDC, syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause some serious health issues if not treated.

It has four stages of infection that can last years.

Rising numbers here have the Hamilton County Health Department ringing the alarm bells.

Dr. Stephen Miller, the Health Officer for the Hamilton County Health Department, said, “We’ve seen a significant rise in syphilis amongst the community and especially amongst certain minority groups.”

Dr. Miller gave a presentation on the rise in syphilis cases at this month’s Regional Health Council meeting.

He is especially concerned about a spike of cases among women, whom he says the cases have doubled.

Dr. Miller said, “And not only are these women of all ages, but especially women of reproductive ages, which we are now beginning to see a rise in syphilis in pregnancies that is very concerning to us here at the Health Department.”

He also said the rate of congenital syphilis has risen in Hamilton County by 300%.

Dr. Miller offered potential explanations for this stark rise.

Dr. Miller said, “From what we’ve been able to see, and also from our interviews with individuals that have come in there has been an increase in the use of dating apps, a decrease in the use of condoms and other safe sex practices. We believe the number of individuals now that they’re coming out of COVID they’re more comfortable congregating and finding new partners.”

He said that it is everyone’s responsibility to practice healthy habits to help curb the spread of syphilis.

Dr. Miller said, “You need to know who your partner is, you need to have these conversations. In this country we’re a little uncomfortable about talking about sex with not only our family but with our partners. When we’re dating, we need to practice safe sex and use these condoms. It’s not out of the range to ask about someone what their sexual history and when they were tested last.”

With the rise of the syphilis in women of reproductive age (which is defined as ages 15-43), Dr. Miller says they are seeing more children born with syphilis related issues.

These issues include Hutchinson’s Teeth, where the teeth of a child grow in a triangular shape.

Dr. Miller says that if you suspect you have been infected, please get tested immediately at your doctor’s office or the Health Department.

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Some of the trends concerning a rise in syphilis cases in Hamilton County presented Monday at the Regional Health Council Meeting.

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