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Houston in midst of syphilis outbreak

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services is reporting a 97 percent increase in new syphilis cases during the first seven months of 2012 compared to 2011.

In 2011, there were 264 infectious syphilis cases.  From January to August, Houston has reported 318 cases.  Most new cases are men.

"People who are having anonymous sex, people who are having multiple sex partners, having unprotected sex, so this puts people at risk," Houston's STD Program Manager Lupita Thornton said.

After seeing five years of declining syphilis cases, the City of Houston is taking this outbreak very seriously.

In most cases, syphilis goes undetected because symptoms like a rash are misinterpreted or simply ignored.

"It can be lesions on the soles of your feet, in the palms of your hands," Thorton said.

While syphilis can be treated, it causes extensive damage to organs when left untreated.

The city says 39 percent of people diagnosed with syphilis in 2012 also tested HIV positive.

In response to the outbreak, the city recommends all medical providers screen their patients, especially those in high-risk groups for the disease.  The city is also expanding clinic and mobile clinic hours and is providing education services to hard-to-reach populations.

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