Cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the U.S. increased during the pandemic in 2021, with syphilis cases experiencing the highest surge in nearly 70 years.
The preliminary data covering cases for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis last year showed an increase in all four types of STDs.
“STDs continued to increase during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no signs of slowing,” the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated.
In an interview with Politico, CDC Division of STD Prevention Director Leandro Mena blamed the underfunding of public health programs for the increased number of cases. Increased opioid and methamphetamine usage has also led to the increased sharing of needles, Mena also mentioned, along with the decreased usage of condoms among younger Americans.
Overall, the number of reported STDs in the U.S. rose from 2.4 million in 2020 to 2.5 million in 2021. Cases of chlamydia dropped between 2017 and 2020, but rose again in the past year to more than 1.6 million cases.
Gonorrhea cases reached more than 696,000 in 2021, a notable increase over the reported 555,608 cases just four years earlier in 2017. Congenital syphilis cases reached 2,677 last year, up from 941 in 2017.
Syphilis ranked as the largest area of increased cases in the report. The nation saw an increase of nearly 26% of total annual syphilis cases in one year, with just over 171,000 people with confirmed infections in 2021.
“In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically disrupted life as we knew it, and while there were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, sexually transmitted diseases were not,” Jonathan Mermin, the director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in April. “The unrelenting momentum of STDs continued, even as prevention and treatment services were disrupted. New data CDC data suggests STDs increased during the first year of the pandemic.”
The concerns have been further complicated by the recent outbreak of monkeypox cases nationwide, In August, the monkeypox virus reached all 50 states after Wyoming reported its first positive case.
“Because monkeypox spreads through close, intimate contact we do not believe the risk for the virus is now a higher concern for the local community or for most people in Wyoming,” Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) said in a statement on last month. “Monkeypox does not spread easily like familiar viruses such as influenza or COVID-19.”
By late August, more than 15,400 confirmed cases had been reported across the U.S., accounting for nearly 36% of all cases worldwide. New York, California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Illinois ranked as the top five states in terms of the number of cases.
The first confirmed case of a U.S. death due to monkeypox was reported this week in California.