Reported cases of syphilis more than quadrupled in the Kansas City area from 2010 to 2014 — from 43 cases to 220 — according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC data for 2014 reflected a dramatic national increase in sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
The rates of chlamydia in 2014 were some of the highest ever recorded nationally, with 1.4 million cases reported in the United States. That’s the highest “number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC,” according to the November report.
In the Kansas City metro area, which includes both sides of the state line for CDC data, reported cases rose from 9,513 to 9,866 in the same time period.
Reported cases of gonorrhea in the KC area declined slightly, from 2,696 in 2013 to 2,642 in 2014.
The rate of syphilis, however, appears more problematic nationwide and in Kansas City.
Nationally, reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease, rose 15.1 percent in 2014.
In Kansas, data show syphilis rates more than doubled statewide over the past four years, according to The Wichita Eagle, with 145 syphilis cases reported in 2014.
In the Kansas City area, 220 cases of primary and secondary syphilis were reported in 2014, up from 155 in 2013, according to CDC data.
That’s not quite the syphilis spike seen in Rhode Island, where health officials reported a staggering 79 percent increase in cases from 2013 to 2014. One reason? Better testing that leads to better detection, health officials said.
But they also blamed Tinder.
“High-risk behaviors include using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom, having multiple sex partners, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the Rhode Island health department said in a statement.
The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new STD infections happen each year in the U.S., with the majority affecting 15- to 24-year-olds.
Because many STD tests and treatments are funded through public health dollars, some health experts draw a direct line between cuts in public health clinic funding and the rise in STDs.
“Most recently, there have been significant erosions of state and local STD control programs,” Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, told NBC when the new CDC statistics were released.
“Most people don’t recognize that the direct clinical care of individuals with sexually transmitted diseases is supported by state and local funds and federal funds.”
Gianfranco Pezzino, senior fellow and strategy team leader for the Kansas Health Institute, told The Wichita Eagle that public health dollars also go toward STD prevention and treatment in ways that are not direct clinical care.
One example, he said, is the Community Health Improvement Plan, which was cut from the Sedgwick County budget for next year. The plan is a compilation of data about the county’s overall health and identifies areas in need of improvement. Nonprofits and health organizations use the assessment to apply for grants and design health programs.
Pezzino told the Eagle that he hasn’t studied the specific effects of public funding cuts on STD rates, but research generally suggests an increase in rates when funds are slashed.
“My best wish is that I’m wrong in my forecast,” he said. “But I have no evidence to say I’m wrong. All the evidence points in that direction, but I hope I’m wrong.”