'Growing threat': STD rates rising across Mid-South

'Growing threat': CDC says STD rates rising across Mid-South

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The number of people infected with sexually transmitted diseases in Tennessee and other parts of the Mid-South is growing.

The numbers mirror a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which described gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia as a growing threat across the country.

In 2016, doctors diagnosed more than two million Americans with STDs, the most ever recorded, according to the CDC.

In Tennessee, the rate of people diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2018 is up by double digits from 2017, according to figures from the state health department.

New cases of syphilis are down in Mississippi, but chlamydia is up 22 percent and gonorrhea is up 28 percent, according to state figures.

Arkansas hasn't released any numbers this year, but in recent years, the state ranked in the top 10 for chlamydia and gonorrhea, according to the CDC.

While STDs are on the rise across the country, health officials in Shelby County said some STDs have actually been declining for the last decade.

However, the numbers remain too high.

David Sweat, Chief of Epidemiology for the Shelby County Health Department, said fewer people are being diagnosed with gonorrhea and chlamydia in Shelby County, but the rates are still the highest in the country.

"Right now, we're running about two times the national average and for the state of Tennessee some of our rates are three times higher than the state rate overall," Sweat said.

While syphilis rates are increasing in Shelby County, the number of people infected is actually low.

Groups most at risk for these STDs are people with multiple sexual partners and gay and bisexual men.

"A lot of people don't know everything they can do to prevent the spread of these diseases," Sweat said.

Sweat said it'll take more education, more partnerships with health providers and more people getting tested.

The Shelby County Health Department provides free STD testing. For more information, call at 901-222-9385.

Additionally, Tennessee and nine neighboring states are currently battling a Hepatitis A outbreak. Click here for more information.

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