New York, December 16
With the health care community heavily focused on Covid-19, there have been concerns about the reporting of other diseases. A new study has revealed that this may have affected the reporting of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
For the study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, the research team analysed the number of reported cases of STIs within the US during the first 40 weeks of 2020 and compared the counts with those recorded for the same period in 2019.
And because the Covid-19 outbreak was first declared a US national emergency on March 13, 2020 — near the end of week 11 — the researchers used that as the starting point for comparing reported STI cases in 2020 with the number of Covid-19 cases documented in weeks 12 through 40 of 2020.
They obtained the numbers of cases for Covid-19 and three STIs — chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis — from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System managed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Comparing weekly incident case counts in 2020 from weeks one through 11 with weeks 12 through 40, the researchers found decreases for two of the STIs — 20.2 per cent for chlamydia and 3 per cent for gonorrhoea — while there was a 5.5 per cent rise in reports of syphilis cases.
Comparing cumulative year-to-date case reporting data at week 40 in 2019 with the same time period in 2020, the study found decreases in chlamydia (18.2 per cent) and syphilis (6.9 per cent) but no significant change in gonorrhoea numbers (a 0.06 per cent decrease).
When compared with the number of cases reported each week for Covid-19 during weeks 12 through 40 of 2020, the weekly numbers for the three STIs appeared to inversely rise or fall for the most part with the coronavirus counts.
“In other words, periods of heavy Covid-19 case reporting seemed to coincide with fewer STIs being counted,” said study authors from the Johns Hopkins University in the US.
The team showed that the reported case numbers for 42 of the 44 nationally notifiable diseases tracked by the CDC decreased from 2019 to 2020 for weeks 1 through 40.
The researchers say that this possibly indicates the observed effect may impact infectious diseases other than STIs.
Based on their findings, the researchers believe there is a critical need for innovative strategies — such as patient-collected and mailed specimens — to counter any impact in case of reporting during a pandemic.