Syphilis cases spike in Wake County, dating apps may be to blame

WAKE COUNTY (WTVD) -- The Wake County Public Health Department is spreading awareness about sexually transmitted diseases as the county is seeing the highest number of syphilis cases in 20 years.

Sue Lynn Ledford, the Wake County Public Health Division Director, put it plainly, "People should know who their sex partners are."

The fact that many don't is what has kept her and other local health providers busy since last summer when they started to see a spike in the number of syphilis cases.

"It's called the great imitator," explained Ledford. "Because it imitates a lot of other symptoms you might have. A rash on your hands, rash on your feet."

Click here to read Wake County's Syphilis Fact Sheet

Ledford said in 2008, Wake County had 37 confirmed cases of syphilis. Today, there are 213.

Through interviews and research, the health department noted many times, the patient had used an online dating app to meet and have sex with someone they barely knew.

"You're anonymously hooking up with people for sex and not knowing background and risk factors," said Ledford.

When it comes to finding people you're attracted to, apps like Tinder have made it easier than ever.

"I have friends that use it and I feel like there's a new one every week," said Alden Hale of Raleigh.

The app Down describes itself as "the secret way to get down with people nearby." It explicitly instructs users to simply download, "select sex people," then "get dates or get down."

Ledford said while online apps perpetuate a hook-up culture, your health and safety are entirely in your hands.

"Sex that is unprotected and anonymous is more high risk," said Ledford. "Simply because you don't know who you're having sex with, you don't know who could be positive and who may not be."

Learn more about Syphilis and other STDs by clicking here.

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