Syphilis, Virginia’s next big health problem | Local News
Now that COVID is on the decline, Virginia medical professionals are tackling a new problem on the projected slope: syphilis.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, “Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious health problems without treatment. The infection develops in stages (primary, secondary, latent and tertiary).
The West Piedmont Health District (WPHD) of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports that the number of syphilis cases in Virginia is on the rise. The May 2 WPHD’s Perspectives bulletin says one of the biggest concerns is the rise in the number of infants contracting the disease from their mothers.
According to Virginia Department of Health Director of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Prevention and Surveillance, Oana Vasiliu, 10 years ago, Virginia had zero cases; in 2020, there were 15 cases; and preliminary data for 2021 predicts 17 cases.
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The bulletin states that up to 40% of infants born to mothers with untreated syphilis are stillborn or die shortly after birth due to the infection, and those who survive may have complications such as jaundice, anemia and blindness.
Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene identified syphilis as one of the agencies’ “top priorities post-pandemic,” according to the bulletin. It also states that testing for sexually transmitted diseases is available at all WPHD health departments and those affected can contact local departments for more information at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/ west-piedmont/office-locations-contact-us/.
While Virginia may be tackling new issues, that doesn’t mean COVID has taken a back seat.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has recently seen a drop in cases since the peak of the omicron variant, the director general of the United Nations health agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warns that “we let our guard down at our peril and perils”.
“It’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” Ghebreyesus said of the COVID-19 pandemic at the World Health Organization’s annual meeting, according to the Outlook bulletin. West Piedmont Health District.
The bulletin says that although 60% of the world is vaccinated, death rates are rising in regions like Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage, and that 57 countries have vaccinated 70% of the population, most rich.
However, according to an Associated Press news article, vaccinations for the younger population are on the way from Pfizer and Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine will cover three small doses and will be available for young children. The Moderna version will be two low dose injections as per their request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the May 31 WPHD Outlook newsletter, the companies’ two vaccines for young children will be publicly reviewed on a tentative date of June 15, after which they will decide whether to approve the vaccine.
As of June 6, Franklin and Patrick counties are both at low community levels, according to the CDC’s website, which means it is recommended by the CDC that individuals in the area should keep up to date with the COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if symptoms occur.
As of the same date, Martinsville and Henry County are at an average community level, according to the CDC, which means the CDC recommends that people in the area keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, get tested if symptoms appear and that if a person is at high risk for serious illness, they should talk to a health care provider to see if they should wear a mask or take other precautions.
As of May 30, the WPHD bulletin lists COVID statistics as follows: Martinsville with 128 cases and 3 deaths, Henry County with 643 cases and 11 deaths, Patrick County with 159 cases and 2 deaths, and Franklin County with 524 cases and 9 deaths.
Monique Holland is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at [email protected] or 276-734-9603.