Now Trending: STDs Reach an All-Time High

Premier Health Now

Here’s a trend no one’s bragging about. Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached an all-time high in the U.S. in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Combined, these three sexually transmitted diseases surpassed 2.4 million cases.

And cases of congenital syphilis, which an infected mother can pass to her baby during pregnancy, rose 40 percent from 2017 to 2018. The increase is especially alarming because congenital syphilis can cause irreversible, lifelong health issues in the baby, or even death. 

Premier Health Now asked Matthew Bauer, DO, Premier Health infectious disease specialist with Middletown Infectious Disease Associates, to weigh in on the alarming trend.

Realizing that social media and dating apps may be one reason for the increase, Dr. Bauer cautions that “having sex with partners you don’t (or barely) know is dangerous.” He urges his patients to avoid such risky behavior, and encourages using condoms, which can prevent syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. “All can be transmitted through vaginal or anal sex,” he says. And while many may not realize it, STDs also can be transmitted through oral sex, he cautions. 

Bumps, warts, or sores near the anus, penis, or vagina may signal an STD. “A sore throat and mouth ulcers are common symptoms of an STD transmitted through oral sex,” Dr. Bauer adds. 

To find out if you have an STD, Dr. Bauer recommends asking your primary care doctor or the health department to test you. Gonorrhea and chlamydia require a simple urine test, while syphilis requires a blood test. All are curable with antibiotics. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis early in their pregnancy, and more than once if engaging in risky sexual behavior. Such testing is included in routine prenatal care, says Dr. Bauer.