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Minnesota reports 33% rise in syphilis cases in 2021

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota health officials say syphilis cases rose sharply in 2021, hitting concerning levels. 

Annual data on sexually transmitted diseases released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health show that there was a 33% increase in syphilis cases last year, with nearly 1,500 new cases reported. 

While researches say this uptick in cases mirrors a national trend, questions remain about what’s behind it, specifically concerning the role of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Health officials noted special concern related to outbreaks in the Duluth area and sustained increases in Cass and Beltrami counties, both of which are in northern Minnesota. 

Among the cases detected in Minnesota, 15 of them were congenital syphilis, when someone pregnant passes syphilis to a newborn. Cases of congenital syphilis, which can be deadly to infants, were up 115% in Minnesota last year.

Health officials are encouraging Minnesotans to get tested regularly for sexually transmitted diseases, including people who are pregnant. 

Overall cases of sexually transmitted diseases in Minnesota increased 1% last year.

While syphilis cases surged, gonorrhea cases dropped 5%. However, chlamydia, the most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease, saw an increase of 3%, with more than 22,000 reported cases. 

As for HIV infections, Minnesota saw an increase of 8% in 2021, with nearly 300 new cases. Health officials say that ongoing outbreaks in the Twin Cities and Duluth areas played a role in the uptick. 

Source: CBS Minnesota

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