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WASHINGTON, March 8 (AFP) - A third annual increase in syphilis cases boosted the rapid spread of venereal disease in the United States, scientists said Monday at a conference on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
There are 20 million STD infections each year in the United States, with almost half in the 15-24 age group, event though this group represents only a quarter of the sexually active population, said John Douglas of the US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ronald Valdiserri, a deputy director of STD programs at the CDC said there had been success in bringing down herpes cases but added: "Overall, STD rates in the US remain alarmingly high."
The rate of syphilis infection in 2003 rose from 2.4 to 2.5 cases per 100, 000, totaling 7,082 cases, according to the CDC.
The disease jumped 18 percent from 2000, when the rise began, to 2003, the CDC said in a presentation to the conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
About 60 percent of the 2003 syphylis cases were among gay men, compared with five percent in 1999.
Papilomavirus infections, a factor in colon and uterine cancers, has spread, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, which found that 30 percent of women and 19 percent of men had been infected.
Another CDC study found that among 300 adolescent girls treated at a public clinic 72 percent had been infected with a high-risk strain of the disease.
Chlamydia has taken root among youths, with infection reaching 11 percent of girls, who are most affected by the bacteria, which causes infections and infertility, according to authors at the Minnesota Department of Public Health.
The only bright spot in the figures was a fall in the number of genital herpes cases by 17 percent between 1988-94 and 1999-2000. The incidence is falling faster among men than women and the fall in the number of cases has been particularly noticeable among people aged under between 14 and 29.
The annual conference of 1,300 physicians and experts ends Thursday.
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