Sexually transmitted disease rates getting worse

An epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. is increasing and the most common infection, chlamydia, has risen to record levels, government officials say.

Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased in 2014. Chlamydia cases had dipped in 2013, but last year's total of more than 1.4 million - or 456 cases per 100,000 - was the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chlamydia rate was up almost 3 percent from 2013, the CDC reported Tuesday.

"America's worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention," said the CDC's Dr. Jonathan Mermin.

Gonorrhea cases totaled 350,062, up 5 percent from 2013, and the most contagious forms of syphilis jumped 15 percent to 20,000. As in previous years, the syphilis increase was mainly in gay and bisexual men.

Men accounted for more than 90 percent of syphilis cases in 2014, although from 2013-2014 the rate rose in women too.

"We are concerned that most of the surging rates are among men," lead researcher Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention, told HealthDay. "Men are driving these increases. There is an urgent need to tackle the increases we are seeing."

Most gonorrhea and chlamydia infections were in 15- to 24-year-olds, an ongoing trend. Both infections can cause infertility in women but can be treated with antibiotics. They often have no symptoms, and while yearly screening is recommended for sexually active women younger than 25, many don't get tested and infections go untreated, the CDC said.

The CDC report noted that condom use can reduce the risk of transmission, and it urged parents to educate their children about STDs and sexual health.

The report released Tuesday did not include statistics on HIV infection rates. The most recent data, from 2010, showed 47,500 new cases of HIV reported nationwide, unchanged from 2008.