Chicago health officials warn residents of syphilis outbreak in Roseland

The Chicago Department of Public Health is alerting residents of a syphilis outbreak among older heterosexual men in the Roseland community area.

Between Sept. 9 and Nov. 4, five cases of syphilis were confirmed in African American males residing in the Roseland area, public health officials said.

In all cases, the males said they had oral sex with females who engage in sex work.

In 2020, 919 syphilis cases were reported in Chicago, which is a 13-perecnt increase from the same period of 2019, CDPH said.

Data for 2021 is unavailable at this time.

The median age of individuals diagnosed with syphilis in Roseland is 34-years-old.

Syphilis is passed during vaginal, anal or oral sex, and the infection starts with a single painless lesion that develops within three of four weeks at the site of entry in the body.

It often goes unnoticed, officials said.


Left untreated, syphilis can progress to a rash on the trunk of the body, palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Other traits of this stage can include fever, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat and fatigue. 

CDPH offers free testing for STIs at its STI Specialty clinics, which are located throughout the city.

The Roseland Clinic is open Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Testing is available by appointment only. 

Appointments can be made by calling the clinic at (312) 747-2831.

Additional information and testing site locations are available at the CDPH website, from the Centers for Disease Control.