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The Hook-Up Alert

The Hook Up Alert/KSNV

The last time you heard the word Syphilis may have been back in high school history class. The sexually transmitted disease eventually ate away at the brains of Napoleon, Hitler and Al Capone. It was all but eradicated a couple of decades ago, but Syphilis is making a comeback in our modern day society. Now, modern technology is making this outbreak even worse.

Smart Phone apps like Tinder, Blendr and Grindr make it easier than ever to find someone to hook up with for sex. At the Southern Nevada Health District, doctors work to track down the past sexual partners of patients who have just been shocked to learn that they have Syphilis.

"We have people who pull out their phones and pull up an app, say these are the people I met, and it's helped us find people," said Dr. Rosannge Sugay.

Syphilis cases dropped so low in the 1990s that by 2000, there were just four reported cases in Clark County. This year that number rose to 259 cases, an increase of more than 6,000% in 15 years.

While the infection rate is highest among men between the ages of 20 and 35, Syphilis is hitting every age group. Many new patients caught it in nursing homes.

As the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Mountain View Hospital, Dr. Dhaval Shah is treating about 70 Syphilis patients right now. He says many of his patients can't tell him much about the person who may have infected them, because they met their partners through dating apps. He thinks another factor in the high rate of infection here in Las Vegas is all the tourists who come to town looking for weekend flings.

With early detection, Syphilis can be treated with a single shot of Penicillin. If it goes undetected and untreated, the disease will eventually cause severe brain damage. Many patients come to Dr. Shah complaining of memory loss and confusion. He tells us Syphilis can lead to the early onset of Dementia.

The key to protecting yourself, if you are sexually active with multiple partners, is to get tested every three months. The Health District offers low cost testing, and The Center of Las Vegas offers free syphilis testing every day of the week.

For more information on how to get tested for free, check out The Center's website.

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