Skip to contents
Roseland, Pullman

Syphilis Outbreak On Far South Side Being Investigated By City Health Department

Cases of syphilis citywide jumped 13 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Data from this year is incomplete, but five cases have been recorded in Roseland since September.

Roseland Community Hospital
Google Maps
  • Credibility:

ROSELAND — City health leaders are investigating a syphilis outbreak among older heterosexual men in Roseland in the Far South Side.

Chicago Department of Public Health officials said Wednesday it recorded 919 cases of primary and secondary syphilis throughout the city in 2020, a 13 percent increase over 2019.

Full data for 2021 is not yet complete, but officials say five men living in the Roseland area have been diagnosed with syphilis between Sept. 9 and Nov. 4. All of the men are Black and reported having oral sex with female sex workers. 

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. There are different stages but it often starts as a painful sore near the place of infection, three to four weeks after exposure, which often will heal on its own, according to CDPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, syphilis can have severe complications if left untreated, and often is known as The Great Imitator because its symptoms are unnoticed or easily mistaken for something else. Without medical attention, syphilis can progress to non-itchy rashes on the body.

At its most severe, it can brain damage, blindness, dementia, organ damage and death. Pregnant women can transmit the disease to a fetus, and syphilis also makes it easier to contract HIV, according to the CDPH.

Syphilis can be cured with penicillin.

Health officials are urging anyone with symptoms to see a doctor immediately. The city operates three clinics that offer free testing, diagnosis and treatment for STDs.

  • Roseland STI Specialty Clinic: 200 E. 115th St.
    (312) 747-2817
    Mon: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thurs: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • South Austin STI Specialty Clinic: 4958 W. Madison
    (312) 746-4871
    Mon., Wed., Fri: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Tues., Thurs.: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Lakeview STI Specialty Clinic: 2861 N. Clark
    (312) 744-5507
    Mon., Wed., Fri: 8 a.m – 4 p.m.; Tues., Thurs.: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Additional information and testing site locations are available at the CDPH website, from the CDC, or by talking to your medical provider.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.