Facebook may be cause of syphilis increase

Sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, may be exacerbated by the use of social networking sites such as Facebook, one expert told The Telegraph.

Speaking to the news provider, Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, said:

“There has been a fourfold increase in the number of syphilis cases detected with more young women being affected. I don’t get the names of people affected, just figures, and I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites.“

According to research, youngsters in Durham, Sunderland and Teesside are a quarter more likely to log on to sites such as facebook than anywhere else in the UK. The Telegraph states that there have been 30 cases of syphilis recorded in Teesside last year, but the true number is expected to be significantly higher.

“Social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex,” Professor Kelly adds.

A spokesperson for Facebook has, however, branded the claim “ridiculous“. In a comment given to the British newspaper, the rep said:

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“The assertion that Facebook is responsible for the transmission of syphilis is ridiculous. Facebook is no more responsible for STD transmission than newspapers responsible for bad vision. Today’s reports exaggerate the comments made by the professor, and ignore the difference between correlation and causation.

“As Facebook’s more than 400 million users know, our website is not a place to meet people for casual sex – it’s a place for friends, family and co-workers to connect and share.”

The rash symptomatic of secondary syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the spread of a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of the condition are also on the rise in the US. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of cases reported increased 11.8%.

The infection is usually passed on through direct contact with sores, called chancres, which appear in the sufferer’s genital area. However, it can also be transmitted through blood transfusion and from a pregnant woman to her child.

There are three stages of syphilis, including the primary – which is marked by the appearance of chancres –  and secondary – where other symptoms become visible. These may include rashes, hair loss, fever, sore throat, fatigue and headaches.

If left untreated, the disease can progress into its latent stages and cause paralysis, blindness, dementia and even death.

Images: Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Manifestations_of_secondary_syphilis_Treponema_pallidum_6539_lores.jpg, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syphilis_lesions_on_back.jpg

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