Usefulness of Partner Notification for Syphilis Control

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Background and Objectives:In the United States, the recent syphilis epidemic has been followed by the lowest rates in 40 years. Syphilis control in the United States traditionally emphasizes partner notification; however, its role in elimination efforts remains undefined.Goal of the Study:To describe and compare outcome measures of partner notification during and after the epidemic.Study Design:Descriptive analysis of data obtained from interview records of patients with early syphilis in Louisiana during 1993 through 1996.Results:Of 12,927 patients with early syphilis, 3,245 (25%) were identified through partner notification. A total of 7,120 (55%) patients named at least one infected contact. Patients named a mean of 2.3 contacts, resulting in 29,248 named contacts; of these, 22,825 (78%) were examined. A total of 9,374 (41%) of examined contacts were infected, including 18% who were newly identified as infected. No substantial differences were found between epidemic and postepidemic years.Conclusion:Partner notification is successful in identifying and treating a large number of infected persons. However, complementary strategies will be needed to eliminate syphilis.

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