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Disturbing Surge In US Syphilis Cases Reaches Highest Levels Since 1950

A recent government report on sexually transmitted diseases in adults, released on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, reveals a worsening syphilis epidemic in the United States. The rate of infectious syphilis cases rose by 9% in 2022, reaching a staggering 17% increase from the previous year, surpassing 207,000 cases—the highest count since 1950. Despite this concerning surge, there is an unexpected silver lining—the rate of new gonorrhea cases has fallen for the first time in a decade.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials are puzzled by the simultaneous rise in syphilis and fall in gonorrhea rates, emphasizing that it’s too early to determine if a new downward trend is emerging for the latter. Syphilis, deemed more dangerous than gonorrhea or chlamydia, continues to disproportionately impact gay and bisexual men, but its prevalence is expanding among heterosexual individuals and even affecting newborns.

South Dakota leads the nation with the highest rate of infectious syphilis at 84 cases per 100,000 people, attributed to an outbreak in the Native American community. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has initiated a syphilis task force to address the spread of the STD, focusing on high-incidence areas.

While chlamydia cases remain relatively flat, the report notes declines in women in their early 20s. The most pronounced decline is observed in women in their early 20s for gonorrhea, occurring in about 40 states. Experts are uncertain about the reasons behind the decline in gonorrhea rates, emphasizing the need for further examination.

Despite encouraging declines, health officials remain cautious and stressed the importance of investigating the causes and determining whether the trends will continue in the future.