U.S. Sets Record in Sexual Disease Cases

Mike Stobbe, AP, November 13, 2007

More than 1 million cases of chlamydia were reported in the United States last year—the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted disease, federal health officials said Tuesday.

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Gonorrhea rates are jumping again after hitting a record low, and an increasing number of cases are caused by a “superbug” version resistant to common antibiotics.

Syphilis is rising, too. The rate of congenital syphilis—which can deform or kill babies—rose for the first time in 15 years.

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The CDC releases a report each year on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, three diseases caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.

Chlamydia is the most common. Nearly 1,031,000 cases were reported last year, up from 976,000 the year before.

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Putting those numbers into rates, there were about 348 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2006, up 5.6 percent from the 329 per 100,000 rate in 2005.

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Chlamydia infection rates are more than seven times higher in black women then whites, and more than twice as high in black women than Hispanics. But it’s a risk women of all races should consider, CDC officials said.

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The gonorrhea story is somewhat different.

In 2004, the nation’s gonorrhea rate fell to 112.4 cases per 100,000 people in 2004, the lowest level since the government started tracking cases in 1941.

But since then, health officials have seen two consecutive years of increases. The 2006 rate—about 121 per 100,000—represents a 5.5 percent increase from 2005.

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Other doctors are worried. The superbug gonorrhea has been on the rise not only in California and Hawaii, where the problem has been most noticeable, but also in the South and parts of the Midwest.

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Syphilis, a potentially deadly disease that first shows up as genital sores, has become relatively rare in the United States. About 9,800 cases of the most contagious forms or syphilis were reported in 2006, up from about 8,700 in 2005.

The rate rose from 2.9 cases per 100,000 people to 3.3, a 14 percent increase.

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[Editor’s Note: The CDC’s “2006 STD Surveillance Report” can be read in HTML format or PDF and can be downloaded as a PDF file here.]

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