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Published On: Mon, Mar 10th, 2014

Gay dating apps, Grindr and Adam4Adam, linked to syphilis increases in Syracuse area

A doubling in syphilis cases in Onondaga County in Central New York is being linked to, at least in part, the ease of finding sexual partners among gay men using the apps, Grindr and Adam4Adam, according to a Syracuse.com report today. Check out one popular site with this Kismia dating site review.

The report by health reporter, James T. Mulder reveals that  “the great imitator”, syphilis, nearly doubled in Onondaga County from 15 cases in 2012 to 29 in 2013.

Darkfield microscopy of Treponema pallidum Credits: CDC

Darkfield microscopy of Treponema pallidum
Credits: CDC

In addition, the number of cases in New York outside of New York City increased from 375 to 490, a 30 percent increase.

Nearly all the syphilis cases in New York last year involved men, and more than 70 percent involved men who reported having sex with other men (MSM) , according to the report.

During a public health investigation of a syphilis case, health department employees are asking patients if they use phone apps such as Grindr or Adam4Adam to find sex partners.

Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Onondaga County’s health commissioner says, “It is alarming to see the number of people who use these apps. They are significantly contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted disease.”

And the rise in syphilis among  MSM is not only in Onondaga County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual report, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2012 shows  that there has been a “troubling rise” in syphilis in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

MSM account for three quarters (75 percent) of all the 15,667 primary and secondary syphilis cases reported in 2012. In fact, the rate per 100,000 people (5.0) is an over 11 percent increase from 2011, attributed solely among men, particularly gay and bisexual men, the federal health agency notes.

The CDC report also discusses the correlation between syphilis and HIV infection. “Syphilis infection can also place a person at increased risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV infection. Surveillance data from several major cities throughout the country indicate that an average of four in 10 MSM with syphilis are also infected with HIV .”

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. The most common way to get syphilis is by having sexual contact (oral, genital or anal) with an infected person. The secondary lesions are also infective and contactwith them could transmit the bacteria. It can also be transmitted from an infected motherto her baby (congenital transmission).

Syphilis goes through four stages that can overlap:

Primary Syphilis

The first symptom of primary syphilis is frequently a small, round, firm ulcer called a chancre (pronounced “shanker”) at the place the bacteria enters the body (usually the penis, vulva or vagina, but it may appear on the cervix, tongue or lips). There is usually just one chancre, however there can be many. Swollen lymph nodes in these areas are common.

The chancre usually appears in about 3 weeks after infection, but can occur anytime from 9-90 days after infection.

Because chancres are painless and can occur inside the body, you may not notice it. It disappears after 3-6 weeks whether you are treated or not. If primary syphilis goes untreated, it then moves into the secondary stage.

Secondary Syphilis

The most common symptom of this stage is a non-itchy rash. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands (see below) and soles of the feet, it can cover the whole body or only a select few areas. This occurs 2-10 weeks after the chancre heals. Other common symptoms are sore throat, fatigue, headache, swollen glands and less frequently hair loss and lesions in the mouth.

Much like primary syphilis, secondary syphilis will disappear even without treatment. If untreated it goes into the latent and tertiary stages.

Latent Syphilis

This is the hidden stage of syphilis. At this stage there are no symptoms. This stage can last for weeks or decades.

Early latent syphilis is still an infectious stage and you can transmit the disease to your partner. In late latent syphilis, the risk of infecting a partner is low or absent.

Signs and symptoms may never return or if untreated it goes into the most serious stage, tertiary syphilis.

Tertiary Syphilis

Even without treatment only a minority of infected people develop these horrible complications. In this stage, the bacteria will damage the heart, eyes, brain, bones, joints and central nervous system. This can happen decades after the initial infection. This can result in blindness, deafness, memory loss, heart disease and death. Neurosyphilis is one of the most severe signs of this stage.

Congenital syphilis can results in miscarriages, premature births and stillbirths. Some infants with congenital syphilis have symptoms at birth, but most develop symptoms later. Sore on infected babies are infectious so holding and kissing infected babies could transmit the disease.

It is very easy to detect early stages of syphilis through blood tests that detect antibodies.

It is easy to treat syphilis in the early stages with one injection of Penicillin. Later stages or neurosyphilis may take daily doses given by IV in a hospital. It is important to note in late syphilis, any damage done to organs cannot be reversed.

Having a syphilis chancre can increase the transmission of HIV up to 5-fold.

To reduce your risk of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, practice safe sex:

• Avoid sex, or have mutually monogamous sex with one partner who is uninfected.
• Talk with your sex partners about your HIV status and history of other sexually transmitted infections.
• If you don’t know the STI status of your partner, use a latex condom with each sexual contact.
• Avoid excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, which can cloud your judgment and lead to unsafe sexual practices.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Daniel K says:

    Its not the apps spreading syphilis, its people and people who don’t take the time to get test for all stds.
    Stop blaming apps.

  2. Gay dating apps, Grindr and Adam4Adam, linked to syphilis increases in … – The Global Dispatch | Sex dating says:

    […] The Global Dispatch […]

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