CDC: STDs at All-Time High in 2018

By Michael W. Chapman | October 16, 2019 | 2:17pm EDT
Ocular syphilis. (Getty Images)

( -- The combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia hit an all-time high in 2018, totaling 2,457,118 reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Specifically, there were 1,758,668 cases of chlamydia; 583,405 cases of gonorrhea; and 115,045 cases of syphilis, stated the CDC in its Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Surveillance Report, 2018, which was released on Oct. 8.

In addition to the record-breaking STD numbers, the CDC emphasized the "most alarming threat: newborn deaths from syphilis." 

"There was a startling 22 percent increase in newborn deaths from 77 in 2017 to 94 in 2018," said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of STD Prevention at the CDC. "This goes beyond data and surveillance, beyond numbers and calculations – we lost 94 lives before they even began to an entirely preventable infection."

"Coinciding with those deaths, we are seeing a continued increase in congenital syphilis, or syphilis passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy," said Dr. Bolan.  "In addition to newborn death, congenital syphilis can result in miscarriage or severe lifelong physical and neurological problems for the child."

Syphilis rash. (Youtube)

There were more than 1,300 cases of congenital syphilis in 2018, said the CDC, an increase of 40% over 2017.

The CDC noted that "men accounted for nearly 86% (30,034) of all primary and secondary syphilis cases in 2018, and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men accounted for 54% (18,760) of all syphilis cases." The health agency estimates that "about half of MSM who have syphilis also have HIV."

"Gonorrhea diagnoses nearly doubled among men over the past five years (from 186,943 to 341,401 cases)," reported the CDC. "Data suggest that men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by this disease."

Syphilis rash.  (YouTube)

“Yet not that long ago, gonorrhea rates were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and we were able to point to advances in STD prevention,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, in the foreword to the report.

“That progress has since unraveled," she added. "The number of reported syphilis cases is climbing after being largely on the decline since 1941, and gonorrhea rates are now increasing.  Many young women continue to have undiagnosed chlamydial infections, putting them at risk for infertility.”

Some of the factors contributing to the rise in STDs, according to the CDC, include "drug use, poverty, stigma, and unstable housing, which can reduce access to STD prevention and care," and "decreased condom use among vulnerable groups, including young people and gay and bisexual men."

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