As the pandemic grew, so did chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in Louisiana | Coronavirus

New infections of three common sexually transmitted diseases increased in the United States during the pandemic, and Louisiana remained among the states with the highest rates of spread, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis hit a national record high for the sixth year in a row in 2020. And officials speculate that 2021 will be even worse once the data is finalized.

At first glance, it looks like the CDC report shows Louisiana made some progress in fighting STDs, with the state reporting fewer cases of chlamydia and congenital syphilis between 2019 and 2020. But experts suggest a sharp drop in testing. , due in large part to the lockdown and supply shortages, likely means many cases went undetected.

“In the midst of the pandemic, no one could get tested,” said Patricia Kissinger, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University. “The clinics that were open and that were testing, many of them were low on supplies.”

Louisiana ranked second for both chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2020, behind only Mississippi.

Chlamydia cases decreased from 775 per 100,000 population in 2019 to 709 the following year. However, chlamydia cases are often asymptomatic in the early stages and detected by screening tests, which occurred less frequently in 2020.

Gonorrhea cases increased from 274 per 100,000 population in 2019 to 333 in 2020.

Syphilis cases among adults remained stable, with approximately 15 per 100,000 reported in both 2019 and 2020, ranking Louisiana 12th among states. Reported cases of congenital syphilis, in which the disease is passed from mother to child, decreased slightly, from 68 babies in 2019 to 63 in 2020.

Louisiana has consistently ranked among the top states in the country for sexually transmitted infections. All of the STDs in the report are curable, but can cause serious and permanent health problems if left untreated.

Reporter Emily Woodruff shares weekly updates and information on local health news, including COVID coverage and medical research. Sign up today.

Syphilis can cause paralysis, blindness, and dementia in adults. Newborns with the disease may be stillborn or suffer from deformities, mental retardation, or hearing loss. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility and increase the risk of cancer.

“It’s very frustrating,” Kissinger said. “It’s like watching a train wreck, what can you do about it?”

Most treatable STDs occur in teenagers, Kissinger said, pointing to Louisiana’s sex education laws as a factor. The state has no requirements for sex education, but does require that abstinence must be emphasized if it is taught.

“Places like New York and California where you have really great sex education, you don’t see those rates,” Kissinger said.

At CrescentCare, a federally qualified health center with clinics in New Orleans and Houma, much of the outreach is focused on education and getting people tested, said Narquis Barak, director of the prevention department. The pandemic changed that, and even now, the scope of testing for STDs, HIV and Hepatitis C is not where it used to be.

“We went from doing 600 to 700 HIV tests in places (bars, clubs, parks) to none during the pandemic,” Barak said.

Walk-in testing for HIV has dropped by 50% during the pandemic, Barak said. The health center tried to mail STI kits, but the postal system was disrupted and frequent natural disasters made it difficult to reach people, he said.

Then there were the other health and social problems that were exacerbated by wave after wave of coronavirus infections.

“A lot of it has to do with mental health issues or low income, not having access to transportation and also stigma,” Barak said. “All of these things have been exacerbated in some ways during the pandemic.”

Purchases made through links on our site may earn us an affiliate commission.

Emily Woodruff covers public health for The Times-Picayune | The Advocate as a Report For America corps member.

To learn more about Report for America and support our journalism, click here.

Add Comment