When friends get together after school, they watch TV, text, gossip about boys and, you know, other stuff.
Like group sex parties, for example, which are apparently spreading syphilis among teens in Central Oklahoma. At least that's what state health officials told The Oklahoman recently.
Treponema pallidum, the bacteria responsible for this little dandy, causes a red, pimply rash; an oozing, jellylike pus from the genitals; and swollen lesions. In the early stages, it can be easily treated with an injection of antibiotics. If left untreated, however, it can turn into a nearly incurable "tertiary" form that develops lesions in the heart, spinal cord and brain, causing writhing pain and insanity.
This sexually transmitted disease has appeared in 10 cases in Central Oklahoma, health officials said.
"For parents, this is very alarming," said Jan Fox, the state Health Department's chief of sexual transmitted disease services and apparently gifted with understatement. "It's important to know where your kids are and what they are doing."
Fox said the cases were reported to the department in the last four weeks, which she said were possibly linked to stories of parties in which unprotected group sex was encouraged, according to The Oke.
"We have learned this information from some of the confirmed cases," she said. "We've also gotten information from talking with nurses at county health departments and others that interact with youth in the counties. They are all saying this is something happening among teens."
Fox said 249 cases of syphilis were reported statewide last year, and 15 of those were reported in teens under 18. Thus, 10 teen cases within a month give cause for some alarm, she said. No kidding!
Such concerns were also expressed by microbiology and immunology professor Darrin Akins of the University of Oklahoma. Akins reportedly said a sudden large outbreak in that short of time indicates the cases are related. They may even have started with a single (very active) infected person.
"Ten cases in one area? That's got to be something like group sex or trading drugs for sex," he said.
Greg Heartsill, a disease intervention specialist with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, recounted how one teen couple recently learned they had both syphilis and HIV. Yowza! Those are some tests you really want to fail. Other teens diagnosed with STDs like gonorrhea or chlamydia never return for treatment, he said.
Heartsill said teens may not get the whole "unprotected sex = dangerous" equation.
"They don't always understand the whole repercussions of having fun," he said.
Anita Fream, Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma's chief executive officer, reportedly said the outbreak suggests a need is a big need for comprehensive sex education in schools. ("Comprehensive" means condom instruction).
"Teenagers need to know how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy," she said. "They need the right information to make responsible decisions."
Yeah, we're pretty sure teens who knew the dirty business of syphilis wouldn't go out looking for it. Hell, the Chicken-Fried News intern, Bucky, took a chastity pledge after reading the syphilis page on Wikipedia "¦ and the pictures " oh, dear God, the pictures.