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Sex Transm Dis. 2007 Mar;34(3):154-61.

Rising rates of syphilis in the era of syphilis elimination.

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Public Health-Seattle & King County STD Program, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.



The objective of this study was to assess the impact of syphilis control activities in King County, Washington.


We calculated rates of early syphilis and trends in numbers of persons tested and diagnosed through screening and partner notification from 1998 to 2005.


Early syphilis cases increased from 38 in 1998 to 188 in 2005 with 92% occurring among men who have sex with men (MSM). Our health department conducted public awareness campaigns, increased publicly financed syphilis screening among MSM by 179%, and intensified partner notification efforts. Despite these efforts, the prevalence of syphilis among screened populations was only 1.1%, and 71% syphilis cases were diagnosed after seeking care for symptoms. The proportion of cases diagnosed through screening and partner notification did not significantly change during the evaluation period. Early syphilis incidence among MSM more than doubled between 2003 and 2005.


New, innovative approaches to syphilis control are needed.

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