CDC reports STDs including gonorrhea, syphilis rose during 1st year of pandemic

“There were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, but STDs weren’t,” the CDC said.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 5:16 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 7:23 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - New CDC data shows cases of several sexually transmitted diseases continued to rise during the first year of the pandemic.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Ed Dominguez said he got two calls in one day. “I’ve seen quite a bit of syphilis, I can’t believe how much syphilis I’ve seen since the pandemic started. Just today I got asked to see two new patients with syphilis,” Dominguez said.

That’s compared to 2019, when the average was one case per month. “To be asked to see a disease that is supposed to be under extremely well control, that quickly, twice in one day, is really quite remarkable,” Dominguez said.

Dr. Ed said this could be because of lifestyle changes. “They’re working from home now and their partners are home as well then it just makes sense that the availability of developing these infections,” Dominguez said.

The 2020 STD Surveillance Report found that at the end of 2020:

Reported cases of gonorrhea and primary & secondary (P&S) syphilis were up 10% and 7%, respectively, compared to 2019.

Syphilis among newborns (i.e., congenital syphilis) also increased, with reported cases up nearly 15% from 2019, and 235% from 2016. Early data indicate primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis cases continued to increase in 2021 as well.

Reported cases of chlamydia declined 13% from 2019.

According to the CDC, the decline in reported chlamydia cases is likely due to decreased STD screening and underdiagnosis during the pandemic, rather than a reduction in new infections.

“The COVID-19 pandemic put enormous pressure on an already strained public health infrastructure,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “There were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, but STDs weren’t.”

“As we catch up with these folks, the rates hopefully will go lower. I’m using the opportunity to re-educate my clients every time they come in about protection,” Dominguez said.

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