Pennsylvania exceeds national rate of rising STD cases
The number of sexually transmitted diseases climbed again last year in the United States, with Pennsylvania’s rate of increase exceeding the national average.
It was the fifth consecutive year that gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis cases went up, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual surveillance report. The year-over-year increase nationally was 3.5%. In Pennsylvania, the number of STDs climbed 4.9%.
Across Pennsylvania’s southwestern region, the increase was more dramatic. In 2017, Allegheny and the six contiguous counties experienced an 11% increase in sexually transmitted diseases.
State data for 2017 and 2018 found Westmoreland County had the smallest increase in STD cases at 2.9%, Washington County the most (35.2%) and Armstrong the only overall decline (-19.9%). Cases in Allegheny County increased 9.9%.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health data does not reflect case counts less than five, usually for syphilis.
Chlamydia was the most reported STD, followed by gonorrhea. Both are treated with antibiotics, but gonorrhea has become increasingly antibiotic resistant. In 2006, the CDC had five recommended treatments for gonorrhea. Today, the U.S. has only one option, ceftriaxone.
Pennsylvania cases mirror the U.S. trend with 59,340 chlamydia and 15,887 gonorrhea cases. Primary and secondary syphilis accounted for 797 cases.
Counties across the region saw wild and disparate case swings in chlamydia and gonorrhea. Armstrong, for example, saw a 55% drop in gonorrhea cases and an 11% decrease in chlamydia while Fayette experienced a 46% rise in gonorrhea cases and a 5% increase for chlamydia.
Last week, the state health department issued a health alert advisory to health care providers reminding them of the importance of testing. That followed a review of the first nine months in 2019, which showed Pennsylvania on track to meet the number of congenital syphilis cases reported last year.
In 2018, Pennsylvania had 128 cases of early syphilis reported in women of childbearing age, the highest reported number in more than two decades.
According to the CDC, most STDs go undiagnosed and untreated. If untreated, STDs can cause infertility, stillbirths and an increased risk of contracting HIV.
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