The fallout from the pandemic has run the gamut from an unstable economy to an uptick in social-emotional problems. Experts suggest the pandemic may also be responsible for a continued upward trajectory in sexually transmitted diseases among Connecticut’s youngest sexually active residents. Conditions during the pandemic, including less access to sexual health care and more free time, have helped to exacerbate the trend among young people, say health care providers. “Most parents are working. Students are home alone. They are having friends over,” said Ceri Burke, a nurse practitioner at Danbury High School’s on-site health center.
Despite the best efforts of health departments across the state, the number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continues to rise dramatically, mirroring a national trend. According to surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. experienced steep, sustained increases in STDs between 2013 and 2017. In Connecticut, reported cases of syphilis rose 51 percent during the four-year period, while gonorrhea jumped 25 percent and chlamydia rose 27 percent. According to the CDC’s ranking of all 50 states, Connecticut was 27th for reports of chlamydia, 4oth for gonorrhea, and 45th for syphilis. Health officials acknowledge that the rise in reported STDs cases is partially due to better testing and tracking.
The number of people diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease has increased in Connecticut as well as across the country, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. Though experts note that some of the increase is due to better screening, they are concerned about an actual rise in cases and attribute that to more casual sex through hookup apps and an increase in unprotected sex. Nationwide, more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2016, the highest number ever, with chlamydia making up the majority of cases. The annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, released in late September, found that a total of 1,598,354 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2016, a 4.7 percent increase over 2015. Gonorrhea cases increased by 18.5 percent to 468,514, and syphilis increased 17.6 percent to 27,814 cases. In Connecticut, 14,028 cases of chlamydia were reported, 759 more than in 2015, a 5.7 percent rise.
The number of syphilis and chlamydia cases increased statewide last year as the number of gonorrhea cases dropped slightly, according to newly released figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationally, the number of cases involving all three common sexually transmitted diseases increased for the first time since 2006, the CDC reports. The 2014 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, which was released in November, shows that, nationally, the number of reported cases of syphilis increased 15 percent over the number reported in 2013. The number of gonorrhea cases rose 5 percent last year, and reported chlamydia cases increased by 3 percent. Statistics for the state show a slightly different picture.
Rising rates of chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country, have health care providers more vigilant than ever in screening those most at risk. “It’s part of our routine” to offer chlamydia screenings to all women ages 16 to 24, said Dr. Alix Pose, quality assurance director at Optimus Healthcare. The company operates health clinics throughout Bridgeport, at several Stamford locations and in Stratford. Optimus doctors are increasingly urging women to be screened for chlamydia at their annual gynecological exams, Pose said. About 66 percent of their patients ages 16 to 24 are currently screened.