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Lee County Reports a Spike in Syphilis Cases

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County says there’s been a spike in confirmed cases of infectious syphilis in the county. They’re calling the increase alarming.

Lee County is experiencing a 39 percent increase in reported cases of infectious syphilis as of July compared with this time last year. So far this year, Lee County has 106 cases of confirmed early syphilis which means a person was infected within a year before testing positive as opposed to the 92 cases for all of 2016. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease or STD. Area 8 STD program director with Florida’s Department of Health, Dianna Pratt, said people are being careless.

“We’re just seeing a lot more people having sex without using condoms, having multiple partners, anonymous sex,” said Pratt. “It’s really getting out of control. A huge number of the cases are new cases. We are also seeing people who had never previously tested positive for syphilis and are now testing positive and so they could be older cases and maybe they just never got tested.”

While syphilis is curable, an infected person must be treated as quickly as possible. It has several stages with symptoms appearing within one to 12 weeks after sex.  Symptoms are often internal, so the person does not know they’re infected.  The only way to know is to be tested.

Symptoms can include a painless sore in the genitals or mouth, swollen lymph glands, and a rash.

If untreated, syphilis can lead to blindness, dementia, paralysis, deafness, loss of balance, and miscarriage or passing of the infection during pregnancy or childbirth. 

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Amy Tardif is WGCU’s FM Station Manager and News Director. She oversees a staff of 10 full and part-time people and interns in news, production and the radio reading service. Her program Lucia's Letter on human trafficking received a coveted Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, a gold medal from the New York Festivals and 1 st place for Best Documentary from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. She was the first woman in radio to Chair RTDNA, having previously served as Chair-Elect and the Region 13 representative on its Board of Directors for which she helped write an e-book on plagiarism and fabrication. She also serves on the FPBS Board of Directors and served on the PRNDI Board of Directors from 2007 -2012. Tardif has been selected twice to serve as a managing editor for NPR's Next Generation Radio Project. She served on the Editorial Integrity for Public Media Project helping to write the section on employee's activities beyond their public media work. She was the producer and host of Gulf Coast Live Arts Editionfor 8 years and spent 14 years asWGCU’slocal host of NPR's Morning Edition. Amy spent five years as producer and managing editor ofWGCU-TV’sformer monthly environmental documentary programs In Focus on the Environmentand Earth Edition.Prior to joiningWGCUPublic Media in 1993, she was the spokesperson for the Fort Myers Police Department, spent 6 years reporting and anchoring for television stations in Fort Myers and Austin, Minnesota and reported forWUSFPublic Radio in Tampa. Amy has two sons in college and loves fencing, performing in local theater and horseback riding.