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News sped over the wires today reporting two clusters of ocular syphilis in Seattle/King County and San Francisco – with several cases resulting in permanent blindness.
These clusters remain the only ones uncovered, but according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, “While no cluster has been identified in Los Angeles County, two independent cases of possible ocular syphilis are currently under investigation.”
California is ranked number two for syphilis cases in the nation – Georgia has the bragging rights to the most.
In both areas, the vast majority of patients affected were among men who have sex with men (MSM) and HIV?infected persons. Several of the cases have resulted in a significant and permanent decline in visual acuity.
Because of that fact, men who have sex with men (MSM) in urban regions of the West are being encouraged to get tested immediately, especially if they are HIV positive and sexually active.
The cases of ocular syphilis (usually a symptom of primary or secondary infection by the bacteria causing syphilis, Treponema pallidum), reports of which began in December 2014, numbered as many as 15.
To the LA County Health Department, at least according to the release it sent to providers, specialists and hospitals, “These current clusters raise the concern of specific strains of Treponema pallidum with a greater likelihood of causing ocular infections,” a phenomenon not unlike the recent spate of “superbug” outbreaks and the bacteria resistant Gonorrhea
In a message intended for primary care providers, HIV and infection disease specialists, ophthalmologists, optometrists, and other eye care providers, the LACDPH advocated that stakeholders :
Providers should be vigilant for ocular syphilis, particularly in men who have sex with men and HIV?infected persons.
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