Cases of syphilis, once on the verge of elimination, rose 36 percent in the U.S. in four years and more than doubled in young, homosexual black men, leading health authorities to emphasize more frequent screening.
The increase in the rates from 2006 to 2010 means sexually active men with male partners should be tested as often as every three months, rather than annually, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report today. The rate of chlamydia rose about 24 percent, mainly because of increased screening, while gonorrhea cases are at historically low levels, dropping 16 percent. All three diseases are treatable.
Sexually transmitted diseases cost the U.S. health-care system $17 billion every year, as 19 million new cases are diagnosed annually, the Atlanta-based CDC said. Fewer than half of people who should be screened are being tested, according to a report. Untreated STDs can cause organ damage and infertility, and many people don’t realize they’re infected because they have no symptoms.
“Sexually transmitted infections primarily affect young people and can have long-term health consequences that can last a lifetime,” said Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s division of STD prevention, in a telephone interview. “Go in for routine health evaluation and screening even when you have no signs or symptoms.”
About 309,000 new cases of gonorrhea were reported last year, while 1.3 million new people had chlamydia and 13,774 were diagnosed with syphilis, according to today’s data. Some gonorrhea bacteria are becoming resistant to the only current treatment option, the authors wrote, so surveillance is especially needed for that disease.
The syphilis rate fell 21 percent among women from 2009 to 2010, but rose by 1.3 percent in young men. Overall, syphilis fell 1.6 percent in 2010 from the year before.
Blacks and Latinos are most affected by these diseases, possibly because many people don’t see a doctor until it’s too late, the study authors wrote. That may be because one in five blacks and one in three Latinos are uninsured, the authors wrote.
While the number of women screened for chlamydia doubled from 2000 to 2010, most young females still aren’t being tested, the authors wrote.
The CDC recommends annual gonorrhea screening for sexually active women who have new or multiple sex partners. Annual chlamydia screening is recommended for women under 25, and older women with new or multiple sex partners. Men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. High-risk men should be tested every three to six months.
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