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Public Health Rep. 2014 Jan-Feb;129 Suppl 1:43-9.

Facebook-augmented partner notification in a cluster of syphilis cases in Milwaukee.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI ; City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI.
  • 2City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.
  • 3City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI ; University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Madison, WI.
  • 4City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI.


Public health professionals face many challenges in infectious disease cluster case identification and partner notification (PN), especially in populations using social media as a primary communication venue. We present a method using Facebook and social network diagram illustration to identify, link, and notify individuals in a cluster of syphilis cases in young black men who have sex with men (MSM). Use of Facebook was crucial in identifying two of 55 individuals with syphilis, and the cooperation of socially connected individuals with traditional PN methods yielded a high number of contacts per case. Integration of PN services for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as collaboration between the city and state information systems, assisted in the cluster investigation. Given that rates of syphilis and HIV infection are increasing significantly in young African American MSM, the use of social media can provide an additional avenue to facilitate case identification and notification.

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