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Official: the Net can give you syphilis

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The Internet has swarmed with health threats lately, the vast majority of which seem inevitably to originate in the United States. We have heard of ten-year-old American fatties glued to the monitor and developing adult-onset diabetes; we have heard how the mouse and keyboard are implicated in carpal tunnel syndrome; we have heard that the Internet causes insanity, addictions, compulsions, and personality disorders. Evidently one would be hard-pressed to locate a primitive band of hunter-gatherers in poorer health than the average American family today. Now even cybersex threatens the American public. Each of the last seven consecutive cases of syphilis reported to the San Francisco Department of Health pertain to patients who had visited an AOL chat room for gay men called SFM4M (San Francisco Men For Men), the Department confirmed on Monday. Public health and privacy interests collided as the Department sought to identify and warn other visitors to the channel, but AOL's privacy policy made that impossible without a subpoena. The resourceful Department then enlisted online gay and lesbian group PlanetOut, which supplied volunteers to chat in SFM4M and distribute Health Department literature among its visitors. Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Klausner confessed to some innocence of the Internet's role as a sexual network, calling the discovery an "eye-opener". As the director of the sexually-transmitted diseases division, Klausner owes it to the good citizens of San Francisco to get considerably better acquainted with the cyber-sexual habits of a wired society. We just hope the online research doesn't ruin his health. ® Related Stories First they come for you Computers Kill Brits Attack of the Killer Laptops emails damage your health Monitor health risk is rubbish Killer monitors - the facts IT equipment is bad for your health Then they cripple you.. and give you cancer, too Kids, cancer and mobile phones Mobile phones are a pain in the neck ...and links to five more brain maim stories Get off your sick bed, it's time to fight back Woman hacks into husband's PC - literally Half of users attack their PCs Users smash up PCs in outbreaks of networkrage But whatever you do, don't listen to Compaq -- it's on the computer's side, I'm telling you. Turn away before it's too late... Hate your PC? Tell Compaq all about it

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