You may already be aware that syphilis rates have been increasing since 2001, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concerned about these and other increasing sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or sexually transmitted infections (STI) rates.

Primary and secondary syphilis cases doubled in suburban Cook County, rising from 69 in 2014 to 146 in 2015. Like you, we are concerned.

We need your help.

Health care providers can play a critically important role in helping to reduce syphilis in suburban Cook County by taking the following actions:

Reporting. It’s the law.

Report syphilis to the health department as soon as possible but within 7 days so we can help you, your patients and their partners.

Fax your completed Morbidity Report Form to (708) 836-5450. Please ensure that your report includes syphilis stage, signs and symptoms, treatment information and syphilis testing information. Click here for the newly revised Morbidity Report Form from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Testing and Diagnosing. Staging and Treating.

Syphilis is called ‘the great imitator’ because it can mimic so many other conditions. For this reason, and because talking about sex can sometimes be difficult, we know the process of testing, diagnosing, staging and treating syphilis can be challenging.

The enclosed staging and treatment algorithms from IDPH can help. IDPH has also prepared a wonderful webinar discussing syphilis staging. Click here to see the webinar. CDC has 2015 STD Treatment guidelines posted on its website. The 2015 STD Treatment Guide app for iPhone devices or Android devices is available for download. All the treatment guidelines for syphilis and other STIs are available right at your fingertips, on your smartphone, for free.

Prevent.

Encourage frequent syphilis/STI testing in any patients who may be at high risk, including:

  • Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Pregnant women – By law, pregnant women must be tested at first visit and during the 3rd trimester
  • Patients who use ‘dating’ or ‘hookup’ apps like Jack’d, Grindr, Adam4Adam, etc. for sex may be at higher risk for STIs


Please inform patients with syphilis that staff from the health department will be reaching out to them and encourage them to speak with us. We can help.

Remember, anyone who is sexually active can get syphilis. Promote safer sex by encouraging your sexually active patients to use condoms consistently and correctly every time they have sex.

We want to hear from you. If you have questions about syphilis, reporting, staging, or treatment, we can help. If you think there’s something we can do better or if you have ideas about how to reduce syphilis in our area, let us know: (708) 836-8637.

  • Demian Christiansen, DSc, MPH
    Unit Director Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Cook County Department of Public Health
  • Rachel Rubin, MD, MPH, FAAP
    Senior Public Health Officer Cook County Department of Public Health