- Syphilis cases in the U.S. have risen by 80% over the last five years, according to CDC data.
- More than 2.5 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were reported in the U.S. in 2022.
- Congenital syphilis cases have increased by 183.4% over the last five years.
Experts are raising concerns after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing an 80% increase in syphilis cases in the United States over the last five years. The National Coalition of STD Directors has called the situation a “rapidly deteriorating public health crisis with real lives at stake.”
In 2022, over 2.5 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were reported across the United States. The most significant increases were seen in syphilis, with 203,500 cases reported in 2022, up 79% over a five-year period, according to the CDC data.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It can also be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. Without adequate treatment, the disease can result in serious health problems and even death.
The infection develops in several stages, each with its own symptoms. The first stage is usually characterized by a single or multiple sores around the genitals or mouth, depending on where the infection entered your body. These usually disappear within three to six weeks, but it is important to still receive treatment early to avoid the disease moving into stage two.
In the secondary stage, patients may develop skin rashes that slowly move to other parts of the body. Often this is followed by a latent stage with no symptoms at all, and most people who contract syphilis do not develop the third and final stage of the disease. However, for those that do, tertiary syphilis can affect many different organs, including the heart and brain, causes serious damage to internal organs and in some cases death.
Perhaps the most concerning data was seen in the number of congenital syphilis cases—those passed from a mother to her child. Over the last 5 years, reports of congenital syphilis have increased by 183.4 percent.
However, there is some good news: while gonorrhea cases have been on the rise in recent years, 2022 saw an 8.7 percent decrease in cases across the nation. Even so, this is still higher than reported levels in 2019.
“STIs—especially syphilis—will continue to spiral out of control until the administration and Congress provide communities with the funding they need to provide the most basic screening, treatment, and prevention services,” the National Coalition of STD Directors said.
“The newly announced federal syphilis task force and the limited import of Extencilline [syphilis medication] are steps in the right direction, but the nation needs a response that fully meets the moment.”
Clear Thoughts (op-ed)
The recent CDC data revealing an alarming 80% increase in syphilis cases over the last five years should be a wake-up call for our nation. This “rapidly deteriorating public health crisis” is a direct result of the failure of our government to prioritize and adequately fund sexual health education, screening, and prevention services.
The staggering 183.4% increase in congenital syphilis cases is particularly concerning. It is a tragic reminder that the consequences of this crisis extend beyond the individuals directly affected, impacting the lives of innocent newborns.
While the decrease in gonorrhea cases is a positive development, it is not enough to address the broader issue at hand. Our government must recognize the severity of this crisis and take immediate action to provide communities with the resources they need to combat this epidemic.
The establishment of a federal syphilis task force and the importation of Extencilline are commendable steps, but more must be done. It is time for our leaders to act decisively and invest in the health of the American people.
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