El Paso submits Syphilis blood samples to CDC

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Public Health Laboratory Assists in National Research

El Paso, Texas – The City of El Paso Department of Public Health’s Laboratory Program has been selected to assist the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research by providing blood samples that have tested positive for Syphilis. Specimens selected for the project include those which test positive for any of the several stages in the progression of the disease. The purpose of the cooperative arrangement is to support the development and improvement of diagnostic testing for Syphilis.

“We are proud to join with other select Public Health Laboratories across the nation in assisting the CDC in the improvement of clinical testing for Syphilis which is unfortunately seeing a resurgence across the nation as well as in the greater El Paso region,” said Robert Resendes, Director of Public Health.

In 2013, the Public Health Department experienced a 51% increase in diagnosed Syphilis patients with 136 cases reported compared to 90 in 2012.  For the first two months of 2014, the department has received 16 reports of new Syphilis cases.

El Paso’s Public Health Laboratory is a member of the Association of Public Health Laboratories which is coordinating the cooperative project.


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Syphilis is a bacterial STD that while treatable, can cause long-term complications and/or death if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis. Syphilis is spread by direct contact with a syphilis sore during anal, vaginal, or oral sex. Sores can be found on the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, or on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis can also be spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.

The disease has been called ‘the great imitator’ because it has so many possible symptoms, many of which look like symptoms from other diseases. The painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump.

The non-itchy body rash that develops during the second stage of syphilis can show up on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places. You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all.

A person can protect themselves from getting syphilis by: not having sex; being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results; and by using latex condoms and dental dams correctly. Washing your genitals, urinating, or douching after sex will not protect a person from getting syphilis.

The Mission of the Department of Public Health is to provide research and evaluation, prevention, intervention, and mobilization services to the people of El Paso so they can be healthy, productive, safe and secure. For more information on the programs and services offered by the Department of Public Health, visit EPHealth.com or call 2-1-1.

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