In 2009, almost 70 percent of parishes report no syphilis cases. Caddo Parish isn't one of them. 741 cases are reported that year. "We know that our rate in Caddo Parish is much higher than the rates in cities such as New York or San Francisco," says Dr. Meredith DeWitt, an infectious disease specialist with Willis Knighton. In fact, Caddo Parish ranks fourth in the country for the percentage of cases based on population.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease characterized by rashes, vision loss, weakness and sometimes paralysis. In its most severe cases, it can become nuerosyphilis, which leads to psychiatric and emotional disorders. Reports show the disease tends to be more common in urban, southern, highly populated areas...just like Caddo Parish.
In 2009, the year in which the most recent data is available, seven of the top ten states with syphilis are in the South, including Arkansas and Texas. Dr. DeWitt says that has a lot to do with poverty rates, because richer states have more money and more resources to fight the disease.