U.S. sets record in sexual disease cases

More than 1 million cases of chlamydia were reported in the United States last year — the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted disease, federal health officials said Tuesday. “A new U.S. record,” said Dr. John M. Douglas Jr. of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More bad news: Gonorrhea rates are jumping again after hitting a record low, and an increasing number of cases are caused by a “superbug” version resistant to common antibiotics, federal officials said Tuesday.

Syphilis is rising, too. The rate of congenital syphilis — which can deform or kill babies — rose for the first time in 15 years.

“Hopefully we will not see this turn into a trend,” said Dr. Khalil Ghanem, an infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s School of medicine.

The CDC releases a report each year on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, three diseases caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.

Chlamydia is the most common. Nearly 1,031,000 cases were reported last year, up from 976,000 the year before.

The count broke the single-year record for reported cases of a sexually transmitted disease, which was 1,013,436 cases of gonorrhea, set in 1978.

Putting those numbers into rates, there were about 348 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2006, up 5.6 percent from the 329 per 100,000 rate in 2005.

CDC officials say the chlamydia record may not be all bad news: They think the higher number is largely a result of better and more intensive screening.

Since 1993, the CDC has recommended annual screening in sexually active women ages 15 to 25. Meanwhile, urine and swab tests for the bacteria are getting better and are used more often, for men as well as women, said Douglas, director of the CDC’s Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention.

About three-quarters of women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. Left untreated, the infection can spread and ultimately can lead to infertility. It’s easily treated if caught early.

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