The CDC’s 2020 STD Surveillance Report shared some grim news, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Research found that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, with specific increases in gonorrhea and syphilis between 2019 and 2020. And unfortunately, this is affecting newborns. According to the CDC, syphilis in newborns rose 235% in four years.


“Rates of [primary and secondary] syphilis increased 24% among reproductive-age women from 2019 to 2020, resulting in increases in congenital syphilis,” the researchers said in the report. “In 2020, there were 2,148 congenital syphilis cases, an increase of 15% since 2019.”

This increase hit the newborns of infected mothers even harder. Babies who are born to mothers with syphilis can become infected with congenital, or secondary syphilis during pregnancy. If the infection is not identified while the mother is pregnant, it can lead to very serious health problems and even, in some cases, death.

“While there were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, sexually transmitted diseases were not,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in an interview. “The unrelenting momentum of STDs continued even as prevention and treatment services were disrupted.”

Dr. Leandro Mena, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, responded in a letter stating that, “While the 2020 data shows that STDs increased among many groups, some racial and ethnic minority groups, gay and bisexual men and our nation’s youth continue to bear the brunt of the epidemic. These data illustrate the factors such as lack of access to regular medical care, discrimination, and stigma, continue to stand in the way of quality sexual health care for everyone who needs it.”

The researchers found that the majority of STD cases occurred in individuals who were 15 to 24-years of age. Three out of 10 incidents occurred in non-Hispanic Black individuals.

Screenings and routine preventive care visits are germane for detection and ensuring that parents have a healthy baby.

For more information regarding this topic, take a look at the CDC research here.

Tiffany Silva

Tiffany Silva

Writer and Editor

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