Sexually-transmitted diseases continued to surge in 2017, rounding out a four-year streak of increases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.
In 2017, 2.29 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were diagnosed, surpassing the record set in 2016 by 10 percent.
The agency said that its preliminary data on last year’s STDS ‘shows steep sustained increases’ in these three most common diseases.
Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is of particular concern to the CDC, as samples that are difficult to treat with standard antibiotics have quadruped since 2013.
The CDC warns that increases in STD rates will only continue unless better funding is put toward educating the American public about their transmission.
Rates of the four most common STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – increased by 10 percent from 2013 to 2017, marking the fourth record-setting year for the diseases in a row
Chlamydia, gonnorhea and syphilis – the three most common STDs – are all easily treated with antibiotics.
But they are also very easily transmitted during sex if proper protection is not used (or used correctly).
And too often these infections diseases go undiagnosed and untreated, making them liable to spread quickly through populations.
‘Prior studies suggest a range of factors may contribute to STD increases, including socioeconomic factors like poverty, stigma, and discrimination; and drug use,’ CDC officials wrote in a press release.
The three, common, curable diseases are in and of themselves not grave heath concerns, but left untreated they can raise risks of much more serious issues, including infertility ectopic pregnancies, still births and HIV contraction.
Despite the leaps and bounds recently made in preventing the transmission and controlling the viral load of HIV, when it comes to other STDs, ‘we are sliding backward,’ said Dr Jonathan Mermin, who directs the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.
‘It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point.’
Those ‘systems’ are probably more accurately described as a loose network of resources that don’t reach all populations equally.
Sexual education is only required by law in 13 states and previous studies have found that even for those who regularly see a primary care physician, their doctors often neglect to ask about sexual activity and health.
Without improvements to sexual health education and care, there have been massive surges in gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.
Between 2013 and 2017, cases of gonorrhea shot up by 67 percent.
In the same time period, syphilis diagnoses increased by 76 percent.
And chlamydia remained the most commonly-diagnosed STD reported, with 1.7 cases reported. Nearly half of those were in young women, aged just 15 to 24.
In recent years, growing fears over antibiotic-resistance in general have made their way from small circles of epidemiologists to the public consciousness.
The message is clear: it is real, it is fast approaching, and it puts us all in serious danger of an uncontrollable disease outbreak.
Gonorrhea – or rather ‘super-gonorhea’ – is a top contender to be that outbreak.
Some strains of the bacteria are already untreatable with the standard antibiotic, oral azithromycin.
In 2013, those resistant strains accounted for just one percent of samples tested by the CDC.
In 2017, more than four percent of tested gonorrhea samples were resistant.
‘We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,’ said Dr Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
‘We can’t let our defenses down — we must continue reinforcing efforts to rapidly detect and prevent resistance as long as possible.’
As of yet, the best ‘efforts’ the CDC can recommend mean doctors need to make STD screening part of routine medical appointments the agency said.