Syphilis cases rising in Hamilton County

Local doctor says help is available at county health department

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Dr. Stephen Miller with the Hamilton County Health Department says syphilis cases are on the rise and that case numbers are even greater right now than they were a year ago.

Miller says the rise in syphilis cases isn’t just happening here in Hamilton County, it’s happening nationwide and has been steadily increasing since the pandemic began.

For those who think they’ve contracted the STI, however, he says there are many in the community ready to help.

CBS News reports that 2021 saw a reported 26% rise in syphilis infections as well as a rise in cases, infecting about 16 per 100,000 people last year.

Miller says that while the world seemingly “stood still” from COVID, STIs didn’t.

“Public health has been redirected to fight the pandemic,” Miller said. “A lot of visits with your local doctor have been converted to telemedicine, so normal screening isn’t taking place. A lot of people during the pandemic lost their health insurance, so there [are] a lot of factors for this.”

Miller says the bacterial disease is often overlooked, beginning sometimes as a small, painless ulcer.

If left untreated, it can develop into a rash on one’s hands or feet before eventually becoming neurosyphilis.

However, Miller says each phase can be treated and encourages those affected to seek help.

“The earlier you catch it, it can be cured and cleared up,” Miller said. “But it’s important — proper screening of yourself as well as your partners’ contacts and community be done as well.”

Miller says the staff at the Hamilton County Health Department is prepared and ready to aid those in the community who are in need of assistance.

“We stay ready to not only screen those individuals that are at risk for it or they may have symptoms of something like syphilis,” Miller said. “But we will also, in a confidential manner, help them contact partners and other individuals in the community that may be carrying or spreading this, as well.”

Categories: Featured, Hamilton County, Local News