The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) Health Alert

Allegheny County Health Department


 The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is providing the following update in response to an increase in the number of syphilis infections reported in Allegheny County. As of November 10, there have been 98 cases of early syphilis (primary, secondary, early latent) reported to ACHD in 2014, a 75% increase over the 56 cases reported in the same time period in 2013. Facts about the recent cases of syphilis in Allegheny County:


  • 90% of cases occurred among men, the majority of whom are men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • 39% of males infected with syphilis were HIV-positive.
  • 54% of the cases have been reported among individuals under the age of 30


Transmission of syphilis in Allegheny County is primarily occurring among MSM, many of whom are co-infected with HIV.  Nonetheless, anyone engaging in risky sexual behavior is at-risk for syphilis.  Our community-based medical partners have an important role in reducing the number of syphilis infections.  ACHD is asking you to have a heightened awareness and perform STD and HIV screening on patients at-risk for syphilis.


ACHD is urging clinicians to perform syphilis testing at least yearly on all MSM, and perform more frequent screening among those with high risk sexual behaviors.


In addition, patients at-risk for syphilis with any of the following should be immediately tested for syphilis:

  • Lesion(s) in the genital, rectal, or oral area suspicious for syphilis (chancre)
  • A macular and/or papular rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
  • Any unexplained generalized rash on the back, chest, or stomach
  • Patchy hair loss


Serologic screening for syphilis should also be performed on individuals:

  • Presenting with symptoms or signs of an STD
  • Reporting an exposure to a sexual partner recently diagnosed with an STD
  • Reporting multiple sexual partners or other STD risk behaviors


Pregnant women must be screened for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, and consider screening during the third trimester, particularly among women at-risk for STDs.


Please feel free to share and distribute.  Providers seeking additional information may call the ACHD STD Program at (412) 578–8081.  Information on the treatment and follow-up is also available in the CDC’s Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines (www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/).

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Allegheny County Medical Society
713 Ridge Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA  15212
412-321-5030  FAX 412-321-5323