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Medical News & Perspectives
January 10, 2001

CDC Says Rates Are Up for Gonorrhea, Down for Syphilis

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JAMA. 2001;285(2):155. doi:10.1001/jama.285.2.155-JMN0110-2-1

The bad news first: After two decades of steady decline, prevalence rates for gonorrhea infection increased by 9% from 1997 to 1999 in the United States, a trend that a senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official calls "alarming." The good news is that syphilis prevalence rates reached an all-time low, according to the CDC report Tracking the Hidden Epidemics: Trends in STDs in the United States, released last month at a conference in Milwaukee.

Better surveillance and reporting of new cases of gonorrhea, a disease that can lead to infertility and increased risk of HIV transmission, accounts for some of the increase in infections, said Ronald Valdiserri, MD, MPH, deputy director of CDC's Center for STD Prevention. But he expressed concern that there are "very real increases" in some groups, especially men who have sex with men. Gonorrhea rates peaked in the early 1970s, at nearly 500 cases per 100 000 people, and dropped steadily until hitting 122 cases per 100 000 in 1997. The 1999 rate was 133 cases per 100 000.