Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the United States every year, costing the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. South Dakota has seen increasing numbers of STIs in recent years says a state health official.
“In 2014, South Dakota reported nearly 4,200 cases of Chlamydia, our highest rates ever, and 900 Gonorrhea cases, double the number since 2009,” said Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Particularly concerning is the 95 cases of syphilis reported last year, the highest number of cases since 1970. That includes three 3 cases of congenital syphilis, which we haven’t seen in this state for several decades.”
Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman is infected and the disease spreads through the placenta to the unborn infant. Because the infection is life-threatening for infants, it’s important to screen pregnant women for prenatal and congenital syphilis.
“Screening and early diagnosis are essential to prevent the spread of these diseases and their long term health consequences,” said Kightlinger. “There are other prevention strategies as well – abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms are all effective measures.” He noted that there are also safe, effective vaccines available to prevent STIs such as hepatitis B and some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause disease and cancer.
The department encourages sexually active individuals to be screened and treated for STIs to protect their health and prevent transmission to others. Testing is available from primary care providers, family planning clinics and the department’s disease prevention offices located in Rapid City, Pierre, Aberdeen, Webster, Watertown and Sioux Falls.