Jan. 25 (UPI) -- One in five people in the United States has a sexually transmitted infection, according to estimates released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Roughly one-half all new cases of STIs occurred in people ages 15 to 24, the CDC said.
"The burden of STIs is staggering," Dr. Jonathan Mermin of the CDC said in a statement.
"At a time when STIs are at an all-time high, they have fallen out of the national conversation -- yet, [they] are a preventable and treatable national health threat with substantial personal and economic impact," said Mermin, director of the agency's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.
Sexually transmitted infections, also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases, are transmitted bacteria, viruses or parasites passed from person to person in blood, semen or vaginal and other bodily fluids via sexual contact.
Although many STIs are treatable, they can have serious health consequences in those who fail to get proper care, often because they do not experience symptoms and unaware they are infected.
Untreated STIs can increase the risk of HIV infection or can chronic pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or severe pregnancy and newborn complications, according to the agency.
The new CDC estimates are based on a review of case reports from 2018, the most recent year for which data are available, the agency said. That year, roughly 26 million new STI cases were recorded.
Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and human papillomavirus, or HPV, accounted for 98% of all STI cases in the United States.
Those newly diagnosed will incur an estimated $16 billion in total lifetime medical costs, including $14 billion in expenses for those with HIV and $755 million in care for cancers caused by HPV, the agency estimates.
Young people ages 15 to 24 account for about 60% of the combined healthcare costs for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, according to the CDC.
Women make up nearly 75% of the $2.2 billion in non-HIV-related STI medical costs, the agency said.
"There is an urgent need to reverse the trend of increasing STIs, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many STI prevention services," Mermin said.