Health officials: 9 syphilis cases in LA porn industry outbreak, more expected

Whether you use condoms may rest, in part, on your age and ethnic group. When it comes to vaginal intercourse, Caucasians reported using them less than African-Americans and Hispanics. But overall, teens seem to be getting the safe sex message, especially males. Seventy-nine percent of young men between 14 and 17 said they used condoms. That was 21 percentage points higher than than their female counterparts.People over 40 have the lowest rates of condom use and it declines rapidly with age. Only 5 percent of men over 60 years old are using them.Older people may be less concerned about pregnancy. They may also be in need of remedial education about sexually transmitted diseases. iStockphoto

iStockphoto

(CBS/AP) More infections have been reported in a syphilis outbreak tied to the Los Angeles porn industry , county health officials announced Tuesday.

Four more cases of syphilis have now been found in the county's investigation of the outbreak , bringing the total to nine, and the discovery of more cases is likely, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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Five cases were reported last week, causing a trade group for the multi-billion dollar industry, The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), to call for a halt in filming to prevent the spread of disease.

"It's not surprising in the adult film industry that we would have transmission of all sexually transmitted diseases because they're having unprotected sex, oftentimes with multiple actors," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Fielding added that the current number of syphilis cases in the outbreak "will grow," because the ongoing investigation is expected to uncover more cases, as the latest discoveries were made through testing of the sexual partners of the earlier cases found, he said.

All those infected are also in the industry, but it remains unclear whether they contracted the illness on- or off-set, he said.

In calling for the moratorium, the Coalition urged performers to get tested for syphilis and to get penicillin shots before returning to sets. After performers get the shots, they can go back to work within 10 days, said FSC spokeswoman Joanne Cachapero.

Fielding said the county health department is alerting providers that work frequently with porn performers, which are largely located in the San Fernando Valley, to be on the lookout for an increase in syphilis cases.

Syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with syphilis sores, which mainly occur on the external genitals, vagina, anus or inside the rectum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease is easily curable if caught in early stages - a single shot of penicillin can cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year, according to the CDC. Additional doses are necessary for people who have had the STD for a longer period.

Persons who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed, the CDC said.

The current self-imposed moratorium on porn shoots isn't the first time the industry has stepped in following news of ill performers.

In 2011, major porn producers stopped filming for nearly a week after an adult film performer tested positive for HIV, which causes AIDS. The Free Speech Coalition said the case was later determined to have been a false report.

In 2010, porn actor Derrick Burtswas diagnosed as HIV-positive, and his case was confirmed, briefly halting production.

In 2004, at least five performers tested positive for HIV, prompting another brief self-imposed moratorium.

Last year, 819 cases of syphilis were reported throughout Los Angeles County, said Fielding. While the number of cases in the porn community may seem small by comparison, Fielding said, "I doubt that the rate of sexually transmitted disease is higher anywhere else."

In November, Los Angeles County voters will decide whether to mandate condom use on pornography film sets.

The CDC has more on syphilis.

  • CBS News Staff

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