Syphilis Is Surging!

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Public Health Officials Aren’t Sure Why?

[By Staff Reporters]

Nationwide, the CDC reports that primary and secondary syphilis rates increased by 10 percent between 2012 and 2013—an infection rate more than twice as high as figures from 2001.


The Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angles, Miami, Orlando, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego and San Francisco metro areas have some of the highest syphilis rates, according to the CDC.

In the San Francisco Bay area, reported cases rose from 438 in 2009 to 814 in 2013. In Washington, D.C., Dr. Raymond C. Martins, senior director of clinical education at Whitman-Walker Health,says that the clinic saw a 32 percent increase in syphilis cases among patients between 2011 and 2014.

And, in recent months, at least 15 cases of ocular syphilis, a serious complication of the disease that can cause blindness, have been reported in California and Washington state, according to an alert released earlier this month by the CDC.





Most of these infections have occurred among HIV-positive men who have sex with men.



Even More: Antibiotic Shortages on the Rise in US


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One Response

  1. 2022 Update

    Public health authorities are confronting a national rise in sexually transmitted infections (STI) amid a steady decline in use of what was once a staple in curbing the spread of disease: condoms, as Fenit Nirappil reports.

    Why it matters: The United States recorded nearly 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2021, more than doubling the total from two decades ago, according to preliminary data from the CDC.

    About half of new infections last year were in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Men who have sex with men contract infections at higher rates than heterosexuals because they are more likely to have multiple recent partners and it’s easier for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) to circulate in smaller networks of people, Fenit explains.

    At the same time, condoms, once central to campaigns to eradicate STDs at the height of the AIDS crisis, have fallen out of fashion.

    Federal family planning surveys show condoms went from the top contraceptive tool for 75 percent of men in 2011 to 42 percent in 2021.
    The percentage of high-schoolers who said they used a condom the last time they had sex also declined, dropping from 63 percent in 2003 to 54 percent in 2019, according to an annual government survey.

    That’s partly because of the advent of long-acting contraception and medications that drastically reduce HIV transmission, enabling people to have condomless sex while still leaving them vulnerable to other diseases that spread through fluids and skin-to-skin contact. Scientists and health officials say they’re now focused on vaccine development, affordable at-home testing and medication taken after sex as the next generation of weapons in the battle against STDs.

    Dr. Marcinko


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