New Cases of Syphilis and Molluscum Contagiosum in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Sign That Social Distancing Guidelines Are Not Being Adhered to?

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Haley Danielle Heibel
Parneet Dhaliwal
Clay J. Cockerell


Contact Tracing, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Reportable Disease, Molluscum Contagiosum, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Syphilis, Venereal Disease


Social distancing has played an important role in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, and, if the general public uniformly followed social distancing guidelines, we would theoretically expect no new diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) during this time period.  However, during the COVID-19 era, we have diagnosed multiple cases of syphilis and molluscum contagiosum histopathologically with an increased incidence in our practice from the dates of March 1 to August 28, 2020, compared with these dates in 2019.  The vast majority of these cases were not suspected by referring clinicians.  Dermatologists are experts in the recognition of the cutaneous manifestations of venereal diseases which is critical to appropriate diagnosis and management, and they should continue to provide care during this pandemic. 

Individuals who acquire STDs during this time may increase the strain on already limited health care resources by disregarding social distancing recommendations.  All medical providers must consider how we can better encourage individuals to abide by social distancing recommendations, optimize care for patients during the pandemic, and prevent the misallocation of valued health care resources.


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