Syphilis is increasing rapidly in the United States

Syphilis, once nearly eradicated in the United States, continues to increase. It reached the highest rate of new infections since 1950the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

More than 207,000 cases were diagnosed in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available. According to a new CDC report, that represents an 80 percent increase since 2018 and 17 percent over the previous year.

Rates increased in every age group, including newborns. In November, the CDC said more than 3,700 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in 2022, about 11 times the number a decade ago. The disease caused 231 stillbirths and 51 infant deaths in 2022.

Experts pointed to a number of reasons for the continued rise in syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases

Substance use linked to risky sexual behavior has increased. With better HIV prevention and treatment, condom use has fallen out of fashion – by less than 100 percent about 8 percentage points between 2011 and 2021, for example, among high school students.

And more importantly, there are far fewer sexual health clinics, along with the disease intervention specialists and nurses who work there.

Syphilis has increased even in countries with national health care because “sexual health services are inadequate relative to needs virtually everywhere,” said Dr. Jay Varma, chief medical officer at Siga Technologies and former deputy health commissioner of New York City.

“But here in the United States it is particularly a problem,” said Dr. Varma.

“If you miss one case, you end up with two more cases, and if you miss two cases, you end up with four,” he added. “This is how epidemics grow.”

With more than 84 cases per 100,000 residents, South Dakota had the highest rate of syphilis infections, more than double that of New Mexico, the state with the second highest incidence. (Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi rounded out the top five.)

Black Americans…

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