Syphilis cases reached 70-year high during pandemic, CDC report finds

Nationwide syphilis infections increased by 32 percent during the pandemic and resulted in 220 stillbirths and infant deaths, an April 11 CDC news release stated. 

While other sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea also saw increased rates during the same time frame, the CDC called the sharp increase in syphilis infections "alarming."

According to the agency, between 2000 and 2001, syphilis cases reached historic lows. Now, 20 years later, the new data reveals that "during 2021, there were 176,713 new cases of syphilis," nationwide — which ABC News reported is the highest the infection rates for the STI have been in 70 years, since the 1950s.

While cases are more common among gay men, cases of syphilis are also rising among straight men and women across all U.S. regions and age groups, according to the CDC. 

Effectively using new tools and treatments and furthering accessibility to sexual healthcare for all populations, but particularly those most affected, is key to moving forward, Leandro Mena, MD, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention, said in a statement.

"The U.S. STI epidemic shows no signs of slowing," Dr. Mena said. "The reasons for the ongoing increases are multifaceted — and so are the solutions. For the first time in decades, we're seeing promising new STI interventions on the horizon, but these alone will not solve this epidemic."

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