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If you have been sexually active and live in the ZIP codes of 41011, 41018 41071 or 41073, consider getting tested for syphilis.
Cases of syphilis have been increasing in Northern Kentucky. In 2010, a total of 25 cases were reported; 34 cases were reported in 2011 and 44 in 2012. Diagnosed cases do not represent all infections. The actual number of persons with syphilis in Northern Kentucky is higher.
Several Northern Kentucky ZIP codes have higher rates of syphilis. Those include: 41011, 41018, 41071 and 41073. Sypilis rates are also high in the Cincinnati area.
Northern Kentucky syphilis cases are fairly evenly split among men and women.
Syphilis is transmitted from person to person by direct contact with syphilis sores. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact; and through contact with infected fluids, such as blood, semen or vaginal fluids. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to their unborn children.
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The Health Department offers syphilis testing at its county health centers. The test consists of a physical exam of the genital area and blood draw. Fees for testing and exams are on a sliding-scale, based on a person's income and household size. No one is turned away for inability to pay.
Many other health care providers offer testing for syphilis, including doctors' offices.
Many people have syphilis and do not have any signs or symptoms of infection. You should be tested if you know your partner tested positive for or has a sexually transmitted infection. Screening is also recommended when ending a sexual relationship or before beginning a new relationship.
You should also be tested for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections if you have any signs or symptoms of infection such as sores, bumps or blisters near your genital area, rectum or mouth; pain or burning with urination or bowel movements; or flu-like symptoms. Women may experience an unusual vaginal discharge or vaginal odor; pelvic pain; pain or bleeding with sex; vaginal bleeding not related to the menstrual period; or burning or itching in the genital area. Men may experience a drip or discharge from the penis.
Pregnant women should be tested during their pregnancy and again before delivery.
Syphilis is curable and treatable. A single shot of penicillin (or other antibiotics if the person is allergic to penicillin) typically cures a person who has had infection for less than a year. If a person has been infected for more than one year, multiple doses of penicillin (or other antibiotics) may be required.
The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of syphilis when the sore or site of potential exposure is covered, but it is best to abstain from sex while any sore is present in the genital, anal, or oral area. Contact with a sore outside of the area covered by a latex condom can still cause infection.
Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of syphilis because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.
Details about are contained in our fact sheet.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention