are public health officials in Clackamas County, Oregon responding to
the rash and rise of sexually transmitted diseases?
decided to ask people with an STD to name their sexual partners to
track them down, and this task has been given to two women – Liza
Baca, a disease intervention specialist, and Mary Horman, a
registered nurse. Most of the work is done by phone, letting partners
know that someone they slept with has tested positive for an STD (no
names are given) and they should be tested as well.
some people can’t be reached by phone, the pair have to go out in
the public and knock on doors.
said this can be a bit terrifying, especially in rural areas where
they need to rely on the GPS and its directions can get you lost. The
women said they have yet to get lost.
also said many of the county’s outskirt residents own firearms and
will show them off to protect their property. When going to a home in
the area, she makes herself visible and doesn’t fidget. She tries
to be as warming as she can, by saying who she is and where she is
from and lets them know she has a nurse with her.
women never go into a home and do keep a cell phone on them at all
one instance, the pair left without informing a partner about a
possible STD infection, as they were at a trailer park and a dog was
charging at them. They also had no idea which door to knock on, and
couldn’t do random knocks due to privacy.
They also reached out to another person, a 64-year-old male by the name of Larry, to talk to him about STDs. The pair explain to him about how some diseases such as syphilis had to be reported, which is why they were talking to him. According to Larry, he had penicillin given to him intravenously and was healing fine.
to find out, through their conversations, that Larry had been
infected with syphilis for 10 years and never knew it.
isn’t uncommon, unfortunately. Many syphilis sufferers don’t have
any outward symptoms, which means they can carry the bacteria and
spread it but never have symptoms of it.
was a time that syphilis was nearly eradicated in the U.S., and for
that reason, many young doctors don’t know what the signs and
symptoms of the disease are.
said many of his sex partners were found on Craigslist and he doesn’t
remember their names.
said, despite too much time having passed, she didn’t feel her time
was wasted. She said they were certain people where you know public
health intervention is a necessity.
Coalition of STD Directors Executive Director David Harvey said the
work that fieldworkers such as Horman and Baca are doing is
important. He said they can help people get the care they need once
they find and inform them.
said about 1,400 disease intervention specialists are working in the
U.S. This is down from the previous 4,000 workers.
On High-Risk Groups
said she wants to focus on the high-risk populations such as gay men
and pregnant women.
Sarah Present, a county public health officer, said newborns with
congenital syphilis can suffer major neurological complications and
possibly die. She said there are multiple congenital syphilis cases
in the U.S. today, compared to a decade ago.
This is why Clackamas County health officials are dedicating a plethora of resources to find partners and encourage them to get tested. It’s imperative, she said, for the first person to be diagnosed with an STD tell officials who their partner was to stem the rise in STD infections.