With STD cases at record highs, local officials urge treatment, prevention

The number of cases sexually-transmitted diseases has sharply increased over the last four years. But while the most common types of infections are treatable, many don’t know they have them.

Case counts for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have climbed to record highs overall for the U.S. and have also risen in Ohio.

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For Ohio, there were 23,992 gonorrhea cases in 2017, up 43 percent from 2013. Chlamydia cases in the state climbed to 61,430, up a little over 15 percent since 2013. Syphilis cases were 1,899 in 2017, up 72 percent from four years prior.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are curable with antibiotics, yet most cases go undiagnosed and untreated — which can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, increased HIV risk and other serious health risks.

“That’s the frustrating thing is they are all preventable and treatable,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.

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Suffoletto said the number of cases diagnosed in the county was relatively flat in 2017 compared to 2016, but is still significantly up over the last four years.

Up to half of people with STDs don’t have symptoms, but can still spread the infection. People can talk to their provider about if they should be tested for STDs or local public health agencies also provide testing services.

The CDC pointed to prior studies suggest a range of factors may contribute to STD increases, including socioeconomic factors like poverty, stigma, and discrimination; and drug use.

Early data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published Aug. 28, said at the national level there have been “steep and sustained” increases in STDs in recent years, with record high numbers of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cases.

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There were nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017. This surpassed the previous record set in 2016 by more than 200,000 cases and marked the fourth consecutive year of sharp increases in STDs, said the CDC.

“We are sliding backward,” stated Jonathan Mermin, 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.”

The data comes from early CDC numbers released to the media and its annual report on STDs will be published later this month.

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In Montgomery County, public health officials are starting to see cases of syphilis passed to infants by their mothers, which Suffoletto said is concerning.

There were no cases of congenital syphilis recorded in the county from 2008 to 2015. Then there was one case in 2016, two cases in 2017 and four cases already in 2018.

The infection can lead to serious health complications like low birth weight, miscarriages and stillbirths.

“That should not happen at all because mothers should be tested and treatment can be provided so the baby does not contract syphilis,” he said.

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