Clinic identifies Topeka as “hotspot” for syphilis

Mark Feuerborn

Recent visitors to Washburn’s Student Health Center may have received a warning with their treatment: cases of syphilis are on the rise in Kansas.

Andrew Miller, sophomore accounting and finance major, said that he received a warning about the sexually transmitted infection as he left.

“I went to the Washburn clinic when I had a cold, and they gave out a piece of paper to all of the patients that came through talking about it,” Miller said.

The paper warning goes on to list several facts regarding the STI, with one quote reading: “Syphilis is on the rise and Kansas is in the top five in the nation, with Topeka being considered a ‘hotspot.’”

Tiffany McManis, advanced practice registered nurse at the Student Health Center, confirmed that cases of syphilis have been reported recently on Washburn’s campus.

“I believe the lack of community awareness about syphilis and how it is spread along with unsafe sex practices are the leading factors contributing to the increased incidence in the Topeka community,” McManis said. “However, since screening for syphilis is free in the state of Kansas, my hope is that community providers are helping to increase access to screening and that is why we are seeing increased numbers.”

Syphilis is particularly dangerous, as McManis explains it can damage the nervous system.

“There are four stages of syphilis,” McManis said. “In the primary stage, there is a sore at the site of infection, usually in the genital area, anus, or mouth. In the secondary stage, a person will experience a skin rash, fever, and swollen glands. In the latent stage, there are no signs and symptoms. In the tertiary stage, the person becomes severely ill with the syphilis affecting the brain, heart, or other organs. If a student is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, they should come in to Student Health Services for evaluation and treatment.”

McManis noted that the Washburn clinic also provides STI and STD testing for students at no or low cost.

“Syphilis testing is free,” McManis said. “A blood draw is required for testing. Student Health Services can also test for other sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and herpes.”

McManis reminded students that free condoms are also available in Mabee Library and in the Student Health Services Center.