A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found certain sexually transmitted disease (STDs) cases reached an all-time high in the United States in 2018, and state-specific data show a similar trend occurred in Michigan.
The data are specific to reported cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections. In each year since 2008, Michigan saw between 45,000 and 51,000 chlamydia cases, according to the report. In 2018, that number climbed to a little more than 51,000.
From 2008 to 2014, gonorrhea cases decreased by almost half. However, cases climbed 70% since then. A 10% increase occurred in 2018, and the number of reported cases reached 16,922. Syphilis cases experienced a noticeable uptick in 2013, but fell until 2018, when reports increased by 36% to 654 cases.
In Michigan, the city of Detroit saw the highest STD diagnosis rate, with 33.7 new cases per 100,000 residents. These STDs increasingly appeared in adolescents, African American men and women and men who have sex with men, according to the report.
Here are the CDC definitions of the STDs:
- Syphilis is a bacterial infection transmitted via sexual contact and first appears as small, painless sores on the genitals or around the mouth. That can spread into a rash, and if left untreated, it can later cause adverse health effects like brain damage, blindness, dementia and death.
- Gonorrhea is another infection that spreads via unprotected sex. It’s commonly seen in young people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the CDC. Symptoms include pain while urinating, discharge from the genital areas and itchiness, among others.
- Chlamydia may not cause any initial symptoms, but odds of transmitting the infection to others are highly likely if you have unprotected sex. The infection can cause pain and discomfort in the genital regions for both men and women.
Symptoms commonly manifest in male cases but less often in female cases, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). But undiagnosed syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause further health effects down the line for women, especially during pregnancy. Untreated STD risks include infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and increased chances of HIV exposure.
The DHHS recommends screenings, regular check-ups with health care providers and correctly using protection to lower the risk of STD exposure, according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, DHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health.
“Many infected people are unaware of their status which allows them to unknowingly pass it to their partners,” Khaldun said. “All sexually active individuals should speak to their health care provider about regular testing so they can get proper treatment and prevent the spread of disease.”
The DHHS also recommends “prompt” treatment to prevent the chance of passing STDs to other people. Individuals who suspect they have an infection can visit a local health department, healthcare provider, pharmacist or other organizations to seek treatment. The MDHHS has a full list of STD descriptions, factsheets, toolkits and additional prevention resources on its website.
Free or low-cost treatment resources and services in Michigan can be accessed here.