Combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached an all-time high in the United States in 2018.
The annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, released October 8 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows that from 2017 to 2018, there were increases in the three most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The number of reported cases of gonorrhea increased 5% to more than 580,000 cases – the highest number reported since 1991.
Chlamydia increased by 3% to more than 1.7 million cases – the most ever reported to the CDC.
There were more than 115,000 syphilis cases, with the number of primary and secondary syphilis cases increased by 14% to more than 35,000 cases – the highest number reported since 1991.
Syphilis passed from a mother to her baby, called congenital syphilis, increased by 40% to more than 1,300 cases. The number of newborn deaths related to congenital syphilis increased 22% from 77 to 94 deaths.
On October 9, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) issued a health alert due to “Historic Increase in Reported Congenital Syphilis.” The 7 congenital syphilis cases reported in the state (excluding Philadelphia) in 2018 was the highest number in more than 24 years, and there have been 5 reported cases in 2019 so far.
Additionally, primary syphilis in women of child bearing age in PA (excluding Philadelphia) increased 47% from 87 cases in 2017 to 128 cases in 2018, also the highest number in more than two decades.
“We are seeing the highest number of sexually transmitted congenital syphilis cases in nearly 25 years in PA,” said Dr. Alan Peterson, board member of the Partnership for Public Health. “Prenatal patients should be checked twice during their pregnancy and again at delivery of a child or a stillborn. Sexually active females of child bearing age should also be tested for STDs, even if not pregnant.”
The CDC attributes the nationwide increase in STDs to drug use and poverty, decreased condom use, and cuts to state and local STD programs. These factors reduce access to STD prevention and care.
To protect yourself, make sure to practice safe sex, limit the number of sexual partners, and get tested for STDs regularly.