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Carter County Health Department investigating increase of syphilis cases

Staff Reports

The Carter County Health Department, in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, is investigating an increase in cases of syphilis in Carter County.

Public health officials are concerned about the connection to injection drug use and the potential for further spread of syphilis and other diseases often associated with sharing and re-using needles. 

While the data for 2019 and 2020 have not yet been finalized, preliminary numbers reported to the OSDH indicate a 700% increase in number of cases since 2018. Most of the cases have been found in females and a number of patients report using methamphetamine or other non-prescription drugs. 

“Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly,” said Regional Administrative Director Mendy Spohn. “There are often no noticeable signs or symptoms so it is important to be tested in order to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.”

When left untreated, syphilis can lead to heart disease, mental illness, bone deterioration and blindness. In addition to sexual contact, syphilis can be spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby and cause miscarriage, stillbirth, early infant death, and lifelong physical and neurological problems.

“We are working closely with OSDH to conduct case investigations and identify those who may be at risk and need testing or treatment,” Spohn said. “The Carter County Health Department provides free and confidential testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Testing and treatment are important factors in preventing spread of the disease and protecting the health of the community.”

To prevent the spread of syphilis and other STDs, it is important to practice safe sex by using a condom with every encounter, avoid exchanging sex for drugs and limiting the number of sex partners.

For more information about testing at the Carter County Health Department, call (580) 223-9705. To learn more about syphilis, visit the OSDH Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service website.