Canyon Co. syphilis cases prompt health concern

Posted at 2:25 PM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 19:21:38-05

Southwest District Health officials report what they’re calling “a serious health concern due to an increase in syphilis cases within Canyon County.” Twenty-one cases have been reported since January 2015, representing nearly four times the expected number of cases.

Syphilis is a potentially harmful sexually-transmitted disease that is easily treated, but if left untreated, can cause serious, long-term health problems. Syphilis is spread through unprotected, vaginal, oral, and anal sex and from an infected mother to her unborn baby, health experts said. 

“The majority of cases have been young Caucasian males (average age 29), gay or bisexual, who report both alcohol and substance abuse,” said Randi Pedersen, Epidemiologist for Southwest District Health. “We are concerned because many cases report meeting sex partners on-line or through mobile applications. If you are worried about a sexual contact that you have had, we urge you to protect yourself and get tested,” she said.

Southwest District Health officials encourage anyone who suspects they have been exposed to obtain a free, confidential blood test by calling 455-5345.

Symptoms of syphilis are mild or may be difficult to detect, and can go away without treatment. If left untreated, however, it may lead to difficulty in coordinating muscle movement, blindness, paralysis, damage to internal organs, dementia, and even death.

“The key to stopping the spread of this disease is early diagnosis and treatment,” said Pedersen. “The testing is free and confidential, so it is critical for anyone who has risky sexual behavior to be tested.” 

Free walk-in testing is also being offered by the Canyon County Community Clinic and Terry Reilly Health Services in Caldwell.

In this outreach effort, Pedersen confirmed that the health district has engaged community partners and medical providers in an educational outreach to inform people about the deadly consequences of the disease, to encourage testing, and to prevent the spread of the disease. This public outreach includes school counselors, public officials, the LGBTQ community, law enforcement, jails, social workers, alcohol and drug testing facilities, and enlisting the assistance from Southwest Idaho’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

There are three syphilis testing locations in Canyon County:

Southwest District Health, 13307 Miami Lane, Caldwell. It offers free confidential syphilis testing by appointment,  Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can schedule an appointment by calling 208.455.5345 

The Canyon County Community Clinic, 524 Cleveland Suite 110, Caldwell (on the corner of 5th and Cleveland). It offers free walk-in syphilis testing every Wednesday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. For information, call 208.455.1143

Terry Reilly Health Services, Caldwell Arlington Clinic at 2005 Arlington Street, Caldwell. It offers free walk-in syphilis testing on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For information, call 208.459.1059.