Minnesota Syphilis Cases up Sharply as Pandemic Slows Down

According to the state’s annual report on sexually transmitted diseases, the number of instances of syphilis increased significantly in Minnesota last year, particularly among babies who were infected by their mothers.

With 1,457 cases recorded, the Minnesota Department of Health reports that syphilis cases increased by 33% in 2021. In comparison to 2020, when seven occurrences of ‘congenital syphilis’ in babies were recorded, there have been 15 cases documented, a 115 percent rise.

The MDH said on Wednesday that the state’s rising syphilis rate matches the national trend.

According to the study, the illness had just spread to the Duluth region and had been steadily increasing in Cass and Beltrami counties in north-central Minnesota. In the Twin Cities, new infections were also identified, mainly among males who had intercourse with men.

Syphilis left untreated can result in blindness, dementia, and even death.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota’s STD rates remained close to historic highs, with 33,706 instances reported in 2021 compared to 33,245 in 2020, an increase of 1%.

According to the MDH data, chlamydia continued to be the most common STD in the state last year with 22,578 cases reported, a 3% rise. 59 percent of the cases included adolescents and young adults.

With 9,671 instances recorded in 2021, gonorrhea remained the second-most often reported STD, a 5 percent decline. That came after a significant rise in 2020.

According to the MDH, the number of newly confirmed HIV infections increased by 8%, from 275 in 2019 to 298 in 2021.

In communities of color, about two thirds of the new infections occurred. In all, 9,700 Minnesota residents were HIV/AIDS positive in 2021.

The difficulties in testing and diagnosis that year brought on by the epidemic led to the setting aside of the 2020 HIV statistics. Overall, the Health Department warned that comparing STD rates might be difficult since it is yet unclear how the epidemic has affected sexual activity.

According to Christine Jones, manager of the STD, HIV, and TB division, “What we do know is that the rates of syphilis are worrying, especially the rise in congenital syphilis (CS), or when a pregnant person transmits syphilis to a baby. If left untreated, CS can lead to poor birth weight, damage, or even death in a child. When it’s discovered early, it can be avoided. We urge everyone to obtain frequent STD testing, especially if they are pregnant.

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