CDC Unveils Alarming U.S. Trend in STD Statistics

Summertime is finally simmering down, and I don’t know about you but it is such a relief to move on to the beautiful autumn season and enjoy the outdoors. However, “cuffing-season” is upon us! For those of you who aren’t hip to the term, cuffing-season refers to the time of year when the weather gets colder and almost as a biological response, single minglers seek out a suitable partner to claim as their netflix-and-chill companion or even as a bed-warming buddy – look we’re trying to keep it ‘PG’-rated here (PG = pretty geeky, ha!).

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Naturally, these pairings tend to lead toward some form of sexual activity, and unless you’re intending on having a baby with this person, or worse, are careless about exposing yourself to the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, it’s best to have protection on deck before proceeding with your bedroom affairs. The latest CDC figures that came out regarding STD surveillance for 2018, show it would be smart to both protect yourself and choose your partner wisely. Here are some key startling statistics from that report:

A record 2,457,118 STD cases were reported in the United States during 2018. Mind you, these are only reported numbers so accounting for unreported cases, figures could be almost double what’s shown in these documents.

  • Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 44% of reported chlamydia cases and face the most severe consequences of going undiagnosed, as infertility can result.
  • Congenital Syphilis cases among newborns jumped by 40% compared to the year before. Symptoms of which can result in severe health complications such as blindness, deafness, other debilitating developmental disorders, and even death.
  • Syphilis progresses through different stages of infection with primary and secondary infections being the most infectious stages – men accounted for 86% of cases in these highly infectious stages.
  • As of 2018, gonorrhea cases among men have nearly doubled over the past 5 years.
  • Gay and bisexual men appear to be impacted disproportionately by syphilis and gonorrhea, highlighting a need for more precautionary measures within those groups.
  • For all three diseases, blacks far out-pace all other races or ethnicities, when it comes to reported cases.

All of these outcomes are quite troubling, and considering that the U.S. was experiencing record low STD infection rates around the year 2000 for all three major diseases, we need to figure out what has gone wrong to reverse course so drastically. While trying to pinpoint the smoking gun behind this public health concern, blame has been tossed around to different organizations like a hot potato, but all explanations lead to a common funding issue. 

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The CDC has advocated for more funding and attention at the state and local levels of government, as this alleged neglect has reignited the resurgence of these diseases. The CDC and the AHF (Aids Healthcare Foundation) which are bound to the hip as it pertains to carrying out public health initiatives related to STDs, have also shed light on the dire need of federal government assistance to keep up with STD prevention funding needs. 

In that same vein, the AHF has also had some choice words for the CDC, regarding its perceived lack of effort in pursuing more funding for their preventative care programs. The potato gets chucked again when the CDC remarks that the public health infrastructure needs overhauling and to accommodate the populations in greatest need.

However, there is evidence that antibiotic-resistant strains of Gonorrhea have been arising (3.6% of gonorrhea cases in 2016), and as our treatments have pressured the bacteria to mutate and evolve, we are now down to our last remaining form of treatment that still works for non-resistant strains. 

Another consideration is that STDs may not be necessarily getting passed around at a more rapid rate, but instead greater detection from more clinical check-ins have attributed to the uptick in cases. It is very concerning for instance that females between the ages of 15 and 24 are so severely hampered by chlamydia cases versus males of the same age group. 

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One could infer that there is a sub-population of males lurking around, knowingly or unknowingly infected, and they pass along their disease burden to these women who have unprotected sex with them (primary transmission is through direct contact of the genitals). There are certainly some unanswered questions regarding this disparity, and others, but the short podcast interviews mentioned at the bottom of this article may help provide some clarity; check them out!

As this nationwide public health issue continues to seemingly spread like wildfire, please consider writing your local and state legislators to advocate for increased funding for STD prevention programs. Must I remind you that before you know it election time will be here too, so if this subject matters to you (which it should), be sure to make it a policy issue that leaders are obligated to address, and hold them accountable! We don’t want to wait until this is completely out of control, and we’re dealing with a raging health crisis. 

With all this in mind, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s getting a little crazy out there in the streets, so make sure to slow down and choose wisely during this cuffing-season. Oh, and of course, always use protection if and when that steamy moment arises. 

Feel free to peruse the full 2018 surveillance report here, to stay up to date on all the detailed data, commentary, and trends regarding STD infection.

Interviews

Listen here to NPR’s Atlanta station WABE 90.9 FM which spoke with Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, and Dr. Walkitria Smith, Family Medicine Associate Program Director at the Morehouse School of Medicine, about the results of the 2018 STD surveillance data along with proposed solutions to help reverse the alarming trends.  


Also check out another great discussion and recap on the 2018 surveillance data here, with CDC epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Torrone, courtesy of Boston’s NPR Station.

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Smoking or Vaping, There’s No Escaping

Traditional smoking of cigarettes has become less appealing to the public over time, and there is still a significant segment of the population that partakes in this activity. Some willingly view this activity as an outlet for stress relief, while others have acknowledged their addiction and are open to quit with an implemented program. As the dangers of smoking have become more exposed over time, a variety of quitting mechanisms have arisen from gum, to skin patches, to other forms of pharmaceutical interventions. Unfortunately, with the use of these options, there has only been a 10% success rate in quitting smoking.

In 2003 the first commercially available E-cig was created by Hon Lik in China, and in 2006 the E-cig was introduced to the U.S. market. Today, the most influential player in the E-cig market is Juul, a startup which after launching in 2015 captured 70% of the E-cig market within 3 years. The intention was to provide a “healthy cigarette” and as opposed to attaching itself to the stigma of smoking, E-cig usage was popularly dubbed “vaping”. 

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Instead of burning the nicotine-containing substance or other alternative, that main ingredient is suspended in a complex liquid which is heated to an aerosol for inhalation. Much contention has arisen over the effect heating may have on the ingredients, and whether enough reproducible research has been conducted on the health impacts of vaping. Over the course of marketing the product, a perception developed that this product could be used as a bridge to lead smokers to a non-smoking lifestyle, if desired. Unfortunately, controversy has struck, as a mysterious lung disorder initially described as “vaping associated pulmonary illness” (VAPI), and now reclassified as “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury” (EVALI) began impacting hundreds of vaping clients requiring them to be hospitalized, with over 3 dozen individuals dying from the symptoms, as of this post. Below is a list of states with some of the most EVALI-related cases, including some statistics from the current EVALI epidemic:

CALIFORNIA

A train crossing a bridge over a body of water

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  • According to the CDC, as of September 24, 2019, there had been 805 confirmed and suspected vaping-related cases in the U.S. and U.S. territories. By November 5*, they saw that number jump to 2051 cases. Pertaining to deaths related to vaping, as of October 2, there had been 17 deaths reported. Now, that number has more than doubled to 39, with 3 of those deaths occurring in California.
  • Regarding what is physiologically leading to this outcome, research has shone the spotlight on what appears to be an infiltration of certain immune cell types that typically don’t represent the quiescent lung environment, seemingly caused by vaping. 

 

ILLINOIS

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  • In addition to having the highest number of reported cases amongst reporting states for lung illness related to vaping, Illinois has 3 vaping-related deaths reported to the CDC. To determine if these cases are legitimately related to vaping, teams including state investigators, clinicians, and public health officials are organized to align their findings with a validated case definition. If possible, interviews are also conducted with the patient to establish confirmation of the case.
  • Based on the cases investigated so far, all patients were reported to have been vaping leading up to their hospitalization status. Additionally, most patients used THC-containing products or a combination of nicotine-containing and THC-containing products; one subset of patients only used nicotine-containing vaping products. No consistent evidence of infection has been associated with these cases.
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MINNESOTA

  • Minnesota is among the top three reporting states, regarding the enumeration of vaping associated lung illness cases, including 3 EVALI-related deaths being reported from this state, as of this posting.
  • 65% of total patients were between the ages of 18 and 34. As of the latest statistics, roughly 70% of these EVALI cases involved male patients; 40% of patients were between 18 and 24 years old. Alarmingly, 14% of patients were under 18 years old, as this product is prohibited for sale to minors. This implies that further enforcement of this law is needed.

INDIANA

A tree in a field

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  • Indiana, also among the top reporting states, has reported 3 EVALI-related deaths as of this posting.
  • Investigators are diligently working to uncover what may be the primary culprit in manifesting this mysterious lung illness, as this is still unknown. Contrary to some E-cigarettes being marketed to contain zero percent nicotine, they have been found to contain the substance. The aerosolized liquids used in these vaping vectors typically contain:
  • Nicotine
  • Ultrafine particles
  • Flavorings (such as diacetyl, which has been linked to serious lung disease)
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead

Although many countries have long banned the import of E-cigarette products, more bans are now cascading down from the U.S. federal government and sweeping across the country. There is simply too much controversy around not only the marketing practices of E-cig manufacturers, but also the safety of the vape fillers themselves when heated and inhaled. A similar dark cloud of uncertainty hovers over the hookah community, too, as similar arguments have been made regarding the safety of the activity. It is best advised to avoid E-cig use until more substantiated reviews and studies are conducted, regarding the concerns therein. And of course, it is best to avoid the habit of smoking altogether.

*This content has been updated, as of November 7, 2019, to provide you with the most current coverage of the EVALI outbreak in the U.S.

 

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Smoking or Vaping- There’s No Escaping

Traditional smoking of cigarettes has become less appealing to the public over time, and there is still a significant segment of the population that partakes in this activity. Some willingly view this activity as an outlet for stress relief, while others have acknowledged their addiction and are open to quit with an implemented program. As the dangers of smoking have become more exposed over time, a variety of quitting mechanisms have arisen from gum, to skin patches, to other forms of pharmaceutical interventions. Unfortunately, with the use of these options, there has only been a 10% success rate in quitting smoking.

In 2003 the first commercially available E-cig was created by Hon Lik in China, and in 2006 the E-cig was introduced to the U.S. market. Today, the most influential player in the E-cig market is Juul, a startup which after launching in 2015 captured 70% of the E-cig market within 3 years. The intention was to provide a “healthy cigarette” and as opposed to attaching itself to the stigma of smoking, E-cig usage was popularly dubbed “vaping”. 

Advertisements

Instead of burning the nicotine-containing substance or other alternative, that main ingredient is suspended in a complex liquid which is heated to an aerosol for inhalation. Much contention has arisen over the effect heating may have on the ingredients, and whether enough reproducible research has been conducted on the health impacts of vaping. Over the course of marketing the product, a perception developed that this product could be used as a bridge to lead smokers to a non-smoking lifestyle, if desired. Unfortunately, controversy has struck, as a mysterious lung disorder described as “vaping associated pulmonary illness” (VAPI) began impacting hundreds of vaping clients requiring them to be hospitalized, with over a dozen individuals dying from the symptoms, as of this post. Below is a list of states with some of the most VAPI-related cases, including some statistics from the current VAPI epidemic:

CALIFORNIA

A train crossing a bridge over a body of water

Description automatically generated
  • According to the CDC, as of September 24, 2019, there had been 805 confirmed and suspected vaping-related cases in the U.S. and U.S. territories. By October 22*, they saw that number jump to 1604 cases. Pertaining to deaths related to vaping, as of October 2, there had been 17 deaths reported. Now that number has doubled to 34, with 3 of those deaths occurring in California.
  • Regarding what is physiologically leading to this outcome, research has shone the spotlight on what appears to be an infiltration of certain immune cell types that typically don’t represent the quiescent lung environment, seemingly caused by vaping. 

ILLINOIS

A large body of water with a city in the background

Description automatically generated
  • In addition to being one of the highest reporting states for lung illness related to vaping, Illinois has 3 vaping-related deaths reported to the CDC. To determine if these cases are legitimately related to vaping, teams including state investigators, clinicians, and public health officials are organized to align their findings with a validated case definition. If possible, interviews are also conducted with the patient to establish confirmation of the case.
  • Based on the cases investigated so far, all patients were reported to have been vaping leading up to their hospitalization status. Additionally, most patients used THC-containing products or a combination of nicotine-containing and THC-containing products; one subset of patients only used nicotine-containing vaping products. No consistent evidence of infection has been associated with these cases.
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MINNESOTA

  • Minnesota is among the top three reporting states, regarding the enumeration of vaping associated lung illness cases, including 3 VAPI-related deaths being reported from this state, as of this posting.
  • 65% of total patients were between the ages of 18 and 34. As of the latest statistics, roughly 70% of these VAPI cases involved male patients; 40% of patients were between 18 and 24 years old. Alarmingly, 14% of patients were under 18 years old, as this product is prohibited for sale to minors. This implies that further enforcement of this law is needed.

INDIANA

A tree in a field

Description automatically generated
  • Indiana, also among the top reporting states, has reported 3 VAPI-related deaths as of this posting.
  • Investigators are diligently working to uncover what may be the primary culprit in manifesting this mysterious lung illness, as this is still unknown. Contrary to some E-cigarettes being marketed to contain zero percent nicotine, they have been found to contain the substance. The aerosolized liquids used in these vaping vectors typically contain:
  • Nicotine
  • Ultrafine particles
  • Flavorings (such as diacetyl, which has been linked to serious lung disease)
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead

Although many countries have long banned the import of E-cigarette products, more bans are now cascading down from the U.S. federal government and sweeping across the country. There is simply too much controversy around not only the marketing practices of E-cig manufacturers, but also the safety of the vape fillers themselves when heated and inhaled. A similar dark cloud of uncertainty hovers over the hookah community, too, as similar arguments have been made regarding the safety of the activity. It is best advised to avoid E-cig use until more substantiated reviews and studies are conducted, regarding the concerns therein. And of course, it is best to avoid the habit of smoking altogether.

*This content has been updated, as of October 25, 2019, to provide you with the most current coverage of the VAPI outbreak in the U.S.

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

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The Brain Eating Amoeba, Know Thine Enemy

The Brain-Eater Naegleria fowleri (nay-gleer-ee-uh) is a type of free-living amoeba,that infects the central nervous system and “eats” the brain tissue. There have been 142 cases of recorded infection with 4 survivors , 2 of which received no permanent brain damage. The U.S. possesses 3 of 8 Naegleria f. strains, however as far as scientists can tell, there isn’t any difference in virulence between strains…meaning they are all equally deadly. 

Naegleria f. is present worldwide in soil and both natural man-made freshwater habitats, thriving in warmer temperatures as high as 115 degrees fahrenheit! Some of these amoeba reservoirs include fountains, swimming pools, spas, cooling circuits, and tap water sources. Well before you start freaking out, let’s take a look at some data to provide a more clear perspective!

From 1962 to 2017 there have been approximately 142 incidences of infection with the brain-eater, Naegleria fowleri.According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been 60 cases from 1962-1989 and 82 cases from 1990 to 2017. What has changed in the past 26 years to make the incidence of a brain-eating amoeba more frequent? There are two schools of thought:

  1. The increases in disease incidence could be scaling with a population increase. Since 1990 the population of the U.S. has grown by an estimated 75.53 million individuals, for a population of 325.15 million in 2017  based on the U.S. Census Bureau statistics. 
  1. The Brain-Eater Naegleria f., is able to thrive in high temperature water. The temperature of the U.S. continental surface has been steadily increasing since 1990. These increasing temperatures could be allowing Naelgleria to thrive and reproduce faster. The primary states of incidence, Florida and Texas (both of which have 30+ incidences) are naturally hot climates with numerous bodies of freshwater. This has made both of these sites primary incubators for infection and Naegleria f. persistence.

A  question that arises when learning of a brain-eating amoeba-does this happen where I live? The CDC has developed the chart below to answer this crucial question. Number of Case-reports of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis by State (1962-2018)

Naegleria f. Infection typically leads to inflammation, swelling, and hemorrhaging of the brain. Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, short attention spans, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations; all of which can manifest themselves anywhere from 1 to 9 days post infection. 

Okay, okay so onto the big questions of what the treatment options are after infection, along with the prospects of surviving this amoeba encounter. Immediate admission to your local hospital as soon as you suspect Naegleria f. infection is your best bet, with a combination therapy of lowering body temperature and administration of antimicrobials. Unfortunately, the mortality rate of this disease is roughly 97%, with late diagnosis serving as a predominant culprit.  

Naegleria f. infection is not transmissible between humans so there currently isn’t a fear of an outbreak of amebas eating our brains. However, a few suggestions on how to limit the possibility of infection altogether include: avoiding swimming in warm fresh water, using nose clips when diving into warm fresh water, abstaining from disturbing the sediment of shallow bodies of warm water. Remember, if you think you or someone you know has been infected, please seek medical help immediately!

Joint Article-B.Ford, J. Hamilton

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