RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released their annual sexually transmitted infections surveillance report for 2022 — the most recent year with complete data — and it shows an alarming spike in one type of infection nationwide.
Although the rate for chlamydia has remained relatively unchanged and the rate for gonorrhea has decreased overall in the U.S. since 2021, the rates for syphilis and congenital syphilis have jumped up significantly, leading the CDC to note that the “syphilis epidemic is worsening.”
In 2021, a total of 173,858 syphilis cases were reported. That increased to 203,500 reported cases in 2022 — an increase of 17%.
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Syphilis, a bacterial infection, often first shows up as sores. If left untreated, it can progress to cause rashes, fever, weight loss, fatigue and other symptoms. In some cases, it can cause severe neurological issues. Syphilis can be latent in your system for years, but once identified it is curable by antibiotics.
Even more alarming than the spread of syphilis are the recent rates of congenital syphilis, which occurs when an infected mother passes it to her baby during pregnancy. That rate skyrocketed 30.6% from 2021 to 2022. Some babies with early congenital syphilis are born without obvious symptoms, while others who have later stages of syphilis can have severe birth defects.
The states with the biggest syphilis problem were:
RankStateCasesRate per 100K population1South Dakota76784.32New Mexico76136.03Arkansas1,00132.94Oklahoma1,27831.85Mississippi91331.16Arizona2,15129.27Montana32528.98Nevada90228.49Louisiana1,22526.710Oregon1,11726.3(Data: CDC)
When it comes to congenital syphilis, the type passed on to babies while in the womb, the states with the biggest problem are:
RankStateCasesRate per 100K births1New Mexico76355.32South Dakota40351.83Arizona219281.14Texas922246.85Oklahoma110227.26Mississippi73207.67Louisiana115200.28Nevada65193.09Arkansas69191.910Hawaii27172.9(Data: CDC)
Fewer people were diagnosed with gonorrhea nationwide in 2022. The number of cases dropped by about 9% from 2021 to 2022. However, cases are still about 11% higher than they were five years prior.
Gonorrhea was most common in Mississippi, South Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska and Georgia, according to the CDC.
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Meanwhile, cases of chlamydia have remained pretty steady. The states where it was most common were also largely in the South: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina and Georgia.
The CDC urges prevention and testing to help stop the spread of STIs. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are all curable if caught early and given the right treatment.
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