Syphilis outbreak at U of A

(February 19, 2004) — (Fayetteville-AP) -- The University of Arkansas is encouraging sexually transmitted disease testing in an attempt to curb an outbreak of syphilis in Washington County. Officials say the outbreak has infected people both on the Fayetteville campus and in the surrounding community. Doctor Joe Bates of the Arkansas Health Department says it appears to be a major problem. On average, Washington County has one to two cases of syphilis a year. But last year, there were close to 40 cases. Officials worry that one sexually-active person could have sparked the outbreak. Syphilis creates open sores on a person's genitals. In later stages, the sores can spread to the rest of the body. If left untreated, it can lead to paralysis, blindness, dementia and, in some cases, death. However, the symptoms often don't appear for years, which makes doctors worry that people might unknowingly spread the disease.