St. Louis still has the country’s highest rates of gonorrhea, but dropped to third in chlamydia after years of holding the top spot.
There were 4,041 cases of chlamydia reported in the city in 2017, compared to 4,039 the year before. Philadelphia County, Pa., and Washington, D.C., have higher rates of chlamydia, according to the annual sexually transmitted disease report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The city’s gonorrhea rate of 711 per 100,000 residents is highest in the country when compared to counties and other independent cities, which health officials say skews the data.
The entire St. Louis region ranks 16th for gonorrhea and 21st for chlamydia rates when compared to other metropolitan areas.
The numbers continue to rise to record levels. There were 16,469 chlamydia infections diagnosed in the St. Louis region last year, up by nearly 1,000 cases over 2016. There were 6,669 cases of gonorrhea, an annual increase of more than 1,100 cases. Syphilis numbers went up from 417 to 528.
Nationally, there were also a record number of STDs in 2017, according to the CDC report.
Nearly 1.7 million chlamydia cases were diagnosed in 2017, up from about 1.4 million in 2013. Syphilis has risen 76 percent to 30,644 cases and gonorrhea increased 67 percent to 555,608 cases over the same time period. Health officials attribute the increase in part to a corresponding rise in drug use.
Even as recorded cases continue to climb, most STDs go undiagnosed. When untreated, the diseases can lead to infertility and birth defects.
The new report highlights congenital syphilis, or babies who are infected by their mothers during pregnancy. There were 918 cases of congenital syphilis in 2017, up from 362 in 2013. At least 77 of the babies died in utero or during infancy, the CDC reports.
Half of the cases came from two states — California and Texas. In Missouri, there were 10 babies infected with syphilis last year compared to three in 2013. In Illinois, cases dropped from 23 to 21 over the same period.
All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal appointment, according to CDC guidelines. If caught early, syphilis can be treated with antibiotics and stopped from infecting the baby.
“The important thing here is to really get women into prenatal care early, and keep access to prenatal care,” said Dr. Christina Meddows-Jackson, a Mercy Clinic St. Louis obstetrician/gynecologist.