STDs at all-time-high: How did we get here? | Just the FAQs

The CDC says STDs — including gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia — have hit a record high with more than 2.4 million reported cases. How did this happen?


One of the nation’s most preventable diseases is killing newborns in ever-increasing numbers.

Nationwide, 1,306 infants acquired syphilis from their mother in 2018, a 40% rise over 2017, according to federal data released Tuesday. Seventy-eight of those babies were stillborn, and 16 died after birth.

In California, cases of congenital syphilis — the term used when a mother passes the infection to her baby during pregnancy — continued a stark seven-year climb, to 332 cases, an 18.1% increase from 2017, according to the federal data. Only Texas, Nevada, Louisiana and Arizona had congenital syphilis rates higher than California’s. Those five states combined made up nearly two-thirds of total cases, although all but 17 states saw increases in their congenital syphilis rates.

The state-by-state numbers were released as part of a broader report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking trends in sexually transmitted diseases. Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia combined reached an all-time high in 2018. Cases of the most infectious stage of syphilis rose 14% to more than 35,000 cases; gonorrhea increased 5% to more than 580,000 cases; and chlamydia increased 3% to more than 1.7 million cases.

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