March 27, 2015 at 2:16 pm EST | by Staff reports
Syphilis rates in Chelsea highest in nation
Treponema pallidum, syphilis, gay news, Washington Blade, Syphilis

Treponema pallidum is the bacterium that causes treponemal diseases such as syphilis, bejel, pinta, and yaws. (Image by Dr. David Cox; courtesy CDC Health Image Library)

NEW YORK — Syphilis rates in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood are growing with city health officials reporting 138 new cases in 2013, DNAinfo, a regional news agency, reports.

That means Chelsea residents have 93.3 cases per 100,000 people, substantially higher than the city’s average of 14 cases per 100,000, the article said. That also makes Chelsea’s rates higher than any city in the country including San Francisco, which had a rate of 60 cases per 100,000 people in 2013 according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The increase came amid a rise in citywide infection rates, which rose more than 8 percent last year, according to the Department of Health’s annual report, DNAinfo reports. There were 628 cases of syphilis infections reported in New York City in the first half of 2014, as compared to 585 in the same period the year before. The DOH has not released the full 2014 numbers.

“In NYC, the vast majority of syphilis cases are among men, specifically men who have sex with men,”  the DOH said in a statement, blaming a widespread failure to use condoms. “The increasing syphilis incidence is driven by unprotected sex.”

Anthony Hayes of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, said that because syphilis is difficult to detect early on, the disease spreads rapidly.

“In those areas you have a sexual network that are likely unaware that they have syphilis. When you have sexual networks that are unaware that they have something, it is easy for it to multiply more quickly,” he told DNAinfo.

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