Syphilis Outbreak in Michigan County Claims More Patients

Todd Heywood

In Genessee County, Michigan, an outbreak of the sexually transmitted bacterial infection syphilis continues to claim more patients.

An outbreak
of the sexually transmitted bacterial infection syphilis continues to
claim more patients, the Genessee County Health Department confirmed in
an interview.

In August with the number of confirmed cases at 70, GCHD spokesman Mark Valacak told Rewire the outbreak was waning.

But now, nearly three months and 39 cases later, the
department is ramping up education and outreach again. At least five of
the newly diagnosed cases were congenital cases — found in newborns —
Valacak said.

“We went for a little while and we saw no cases,” Valacak said of
the outbreak. “Then we saw cases in a younger population. Syphilis
tends to be in an older demographic. And now we have these congenital

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The number of confirmed cases now puts Genessee County above Detroit
as the place with the highest number of reported cases of syphilis in

“Very serious,” Valacak said when asked how serious the outbreak
was. “In terms of our rates for a community of our size it is of
extreme concern.”

Valacak said the department is working hard to raise awareness. It
is doing this through a combination of public relations moves, such as
posters and signs on buses, as well as outreach to the ob-gyns. The
department has also trained outreach workers to go out and work with
sex workers.

Valacak said that people should learn the signs and symptoms of
syphilis and get tested. “People need to be making sure they understand
syphilis is a simple blood test and a treatable disease. If you are
putting yourself at risk you need to be tested.”

More information on syphilis can be found here and here.

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