WASHINGTON, D.C. — The rates of three major sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are rising rapidly among Americans over the last several years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released on Tuesday.
STD data from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) tends to agree, both overall and broken down by the Southern Oregon counties—proving that our area is no exception to the rule.
The CDC report found that health professionals reported nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the U.S. throughout 2017—a record high, and one that surpasses the previous record set in 2016 by over 200,000 cases.
Between 2013 and 2017, cases of gonorrhea increased by 67 percent, and flourished with astonishing speed among women, according to the CDC.
Cases of primary and secondary syphilis increased 76 percent, with the majority of those cases found among men having sexual contact with other men. Primary and secondary syphilis are the most infectious stages of the disease, according to the CDC.
Chlamydia remained the most common STD reported to the CDC, with more than 1.7 million cases diagnosed in 2017. Nearly half of those diagnoses came from women between the ages of 15 and 24.
“We are sliding backward,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H, director of 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.”
Although all three of these conditions are curable with antibiotics, many cases go undiagnosed and untreated—potentially leading to severe health effects.
Moreover, the threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea has become of increasing concern to health experts. Although gonorrhea has traditionally been treated with ceftriaxone and azithromycin, lab results have found more and more examples of gonorrhea strains that are resistant to one or both of the drugs.
“We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,” said Gail Bolan, M.D., 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.”
Within the state of Oregon, recent STD data shows—while the rate of HIV remained flat or even decreased between 2006 and 2015—rates of gonorrhea that were falling in 2006 have spiked dramatically since 2010, while cases of early syphilis have risen slowly since that year.
In our local counties, the same trends are clearly visible—particularly the spike in cases of gonorrhea. Jackson County also saw 18 cases of early syphilis (the rarest of the three major conditions) by 2016, even though there were virtually no cases reported between the years 2007 and 2012.
See the sidebar for links to data broken down by the different counties.