Infectious Disease

CDC data show a resurgence in sexually transmitted diseases after a pandemic-related decline

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According to a new report, STDs have returned in the United States by the end of 2020 after a decrease in reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in March and April during the first peak of COVID-19.

The US had a record number of STD cases for 6 consecutive years through 2019, but pandemic-related disruption of STD testing – among other things – resulted in a decline in cases in the first few months of the 2020 pandemic.

Pagaoa graphic

Source: Pagaoa M, et al. Sex trans dis. 2021; doi: 10.1097 / OLQ.0000000000001506.

“When a national declaration of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic was issued on March 13, 2020, states enacted various preventive measures such as stay-at-home orders, non-essential businesses to close, and flexible teleworking policies in the workplace to help prevent the spread of Covid19, ” Melissa Pagaoa, MPH, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for HIV / AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, and colleagues wrote in Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

“These measures may have impacted sexually transmitted disease reporting in a number of ways, including reduced screening and care options for sexually transmitted diseases due to temporary clinic closings, changes in sexual behavior related to social distancing, and a decrease in case examinations due to downsizing in the state and local health departments, “they wrote.

To assess changes in reported STDs during the pandemic, Pagaoa and colleagues compared the weekly number of reported STDs in 2020 to that in 2019. According to the study, they reviewed cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis, which in the US National Reportable Disease Monitoring System in 2020. For each STD, they compared the number of 2020 cases reported for a given week of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) with the number of 2019 cases reported reported in the same week, with 2020 cases expressed as a percentage of 2019 cases.

Overall, they found that cumulative cases of chlamydia were 14% lower, gonorrhea 7%, and syphilis 1% higher in 2020. According to the study, during MMWR weeks 1 through 11 (December 29, 2019 to March 11, 2020), the weekly number of STD cases reported in 2020 as a percentage of cases in the same week was similar in 2019. However, the 2020 numbers were much lower than the 2019 numbers at week 15 or April Chlamydia week at 49.8%; Gonorrhea, 71.2%; and syphilis, 63.7%.

From week 50 onwards, the 2020 cumulative totals were 14% lower for chlamydia, 7.1% lower for gonorrhea, and 0.9% lower for P&S syphilis compared to 2019. Pagaoa and colleagues said the 2020 numbers for gonorrhea and syphilis are well on track to match and surpass the 2019 total.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly led to uncertainty and difficulties in interpreting the number of cases for 2020. The case reports reported in the non-pandemic years 2018 and 2019 highlight the striking and anomalous nature of the decline in STD case reports in 2020, ”the authors wrote. “While the introduction of vaccines has reduced COVID-19 cases and deaths, the effects of the protracted pandemic may affect our ability to get an accurate picture of the STD epidemic in the US beyond 2020.”

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