Syphilis Outbreak Plaguing ‘Sin City’ Being Linked To Social Media And Hookup Apps

The Sin City herself, Las Vegas, Nevada, is apparently leading the nation in a Syphillis epidemic, proving that what happens in Las Vegas, may not always stay there.

Officials in Clark County, Nevada, have had to issue an official warning regarding a confirmed outbreak of syphilis after they were presented with over 694 new cases of the sexually transmitted infection and 615 of them being reported in men. Since 2012 the increase in the amount of cases has amounted to a 128 percent increase and the Southern Nevada Health District declaring an epidemic. Health officials have stated that the rise can be attributed in part to a spike in people getting tested but majority of their blame lays with social media and the numerous dating apps which have reportedly led to a rise in anonymous sex and, thus, the spike in syphilis cases.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Joe Iser explained the reasoning behind the declaration.

“We are considering this an outbreak because disease rates in our community are continuing to climb and we see no plateau at this point.”

The recent statistics are only a continuation of the recent increase in the Silver State as back in 2014, Nevada reportedly had the highest rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases in the entire Western United States with a rate of 12.8 per 100,000 members of the population.

The Daily Mail reports that gay men account for majority of the cases diagnosed, most of whom connected through social media, and in a bid to educate the health officials are going directly to the websites and apps with their educational outreach initiative. In some cases the officials even create profiles and buy advertisements on these sites. Elizabeth Adelman, a disease investigator at the health department in Las Vegas, confirmed that permission had been sought for the authorities to have a somewhat passive presence on the gay online dating site Adam4Adam, which allows users to reach out to them for information on the disease. They are also reportedly seeking to gain similar access to other popular hookup apps, like Grindr and Tinder.

Adelman says that one of the reasons social media and these hookup apps can be so dangerous is that often times what is being arranged is unprotected sex with strangers as negotiating condom use can be difficult among young people, who often just want quick and easy hookups, and have not had a face to face meeting prior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Sphylis can be easily treated by penicillin during its early stages, symptoms of which include open sores called chancres that are often mistaken for other conditions. Once the syphilis infection reaches late-stages however, usually about 10 to 30 years after the initial infection, the symptoms cannot be undone by the typical syphilis treatment and can include paralysis and internal-organ damage.

The fact that children are beginning to have sex at a younger and younger age and using condoms improperly or not at all is also a concern for health officials and Reuters reported that just last week the neighboring state of California got the unanimous approval of the San Francisco Board of Education to expand its Condom Availability Program to provide for all middle schools in the district.

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada has reportedly stated that it is aware of the issues the community is having with the syphilis outbreak and as part of its educational outreach has pushed to make getting tested a priority as well as making efforts to de-stigmatize STDs.

[Photo Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]