The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) recognize October 6, 2017, as the annual Disease Interventionist Specialist (DIS) Day. DIS work across many program areas in public health; however, their primary focus is working with individuals diagnosed with HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia. DIS connect individuals diagnosed with these infections to important resources, confidentially notify anyone with potential exposure and direct all to appropriate medical treatment. The role they play is more important than ever as Iowa and the rest of the U.S. experience increases in many of these STDs.
IDPH employs seven DIS; additionally, Polk, Linn, Scott and Black Hawk counties have staff performing DIS work within their respective counties. In 2016, DIS in Iowa worked 16,000 cases, as well as follow up with an additional 3,000 contacts.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released 2016 STD surveillance data. The report indicates increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis (including congenital syphilis), with more than 2 million cases of these infections reported. Chlamydia accounts for the majority of these cases (1.6 million). Congenital syphilis cases are at their highest number since 1998. Iowa has recorded two congenital syphilis cases so far in 2017. Since 2014, there have been four cases of congenital syphilis; prior to 2014, there had been no cases in Iowa since 2007.
Congenital syphilis is very serious infection. It occurs when a pregnant woman infected with syphilis remains untreated, and passes the infection to the fetus or newborn. Complications may include deformed bones, severe anemia, liver and spleen damage, brain and nerve damage, miscarriage, premature birth, low birthweight, or death. In some of the reported cases in Iowa, the fetus or newborn did not survive. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can prevent these complications. Regular testing is vital to early diagnosis and treatment of syphilis, as signs and symptoms of syphilis are easily confused with other conditions. Pregnant women should be tested at their first prenatal visit. Repeat testing early in the third trimester and at delivery is often beneficial.
For more information about DIS, visit http://www.ncsddc.org/our-work/disease-intervention-specialists-dis/. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats16/default.htm to review CDC’s 2016 STD report. To view Iowa’s DIS map or STD data, visit https://idph.iowa.gov/hivstdhep/std/resources.