The United States is seeing record cases of syphilis as funding cuts threaten to worsen the epidemic

The United States is seeing record cases of syphilis as funding cuts threaten to worsen the epidemic

Syphilis infection rates have continued to rise, reaching levels not seen since 1950, according to new federal data released Tuesday.

According to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), syphilis cases increased by 17 percent in the past year and 80 percent in the past five years. As Congress prepares to cut funding for workers fighting sexually transmitted diseases, experts warn that the record-setting epidemic is unlikely to abate.

“The field of sexually transmitted infections (STI) has reached a tipping point. We have known for a long time that these infections are common, but we have not encountered “Such severe effects of syphilis have been around for decades.”

“Recent public health emergencies have diverted program resources and threatened the health of people already disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted diseases. We must act now to pick up the pieces,” Bachmann said.

More than 2.5 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were reported in the United States in 2022, although officials are very concerned about the syphilis epidemic and congenital syphilis.

Reported cases of gonorrhea decreased for the first time in at least a decade while reported cases of chlamydia were about equal. But the report noted that it is not clear whether 2022 represents a real decline or just a change in reporting and testing.

Syphilis was nearly eradicated in the 1990s in the United States, but has made a strong comeback largely due to years of underfunding public health, coupled with increasing rates of drug abuse and a mental health crisis.

The CDC reported 207,255 cases of syphilis in nearly every demographic group and region in 2022, including newborns. In November, health officials reported an alarming rise in congenital syphilis — when an untreated infection is passed from a parent to an infant during birth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 3,700 babies born with syphilis in 2022, the highest level in at least 30 years and a tenfold increase over the past decade. It’s a disease that affects red and blue states alike — Texas, California, Arizona, Florida and Louisiana account for 57 percent of all congenital syphilis cases reported in 2022.

Cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the most contagious stages of the disease – increased by 10% in 2022 and 68% since 2018.

Syphilis during pregnancy can lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, infant death, and lifelong medical problems for both mother and child. This disease can be easily prevented if people can be reached through screening and treatment.

However, public health officials said they are concerned they do not have the resources needed to combat the rise. Health departments are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and smallpox outbreak, and Congress is preparing to restore $400 million in public health workforce funds as part of the debt ceiling agreement between President Biden and congressional leaders.

“There’s no question that during the pandemic, public health has been busy doing a lot of other things and we’ve diverted a lot of people and resources and just attention…and that may have caused us to lose some of the progress we were making,” said Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer.

The National Coalition of STD Directors found that states would need to lay off about 800 disease intervention specialists if Congress does not stop the cuts from taking effect.

“What the Department of Health and Human Services says we need to do, and what the CDC says we need to do…rapid testing, outreach to people in alternative settings and in places like prisons, are all absolutely correct. But communities cannot follow this advice without the funding and people to do so, said National Center for Sustainable Development spokeswoman Elizabeth Finley.

Harris said Alabama will lose about two dozen front-line employees who work directly with patients seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, which poses a problem for a rural state with a large Black population.

Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by syphilis. Black Americans accounted for about 30% of primary and secondary syphilis cases, but Native Americans/Alaska Natives had the highest rates at 67 cases per 100,000 people.

“Black Americans and black Alabamians are disproportionately affected by STDs. Low-income people are disproportionately affected by STDs,” Harris said. “There are certainly many low-income black Alabamians who seem to be at risk…and so “We have a lot of anxiety about what the future will hold there.”

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