WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The number of reported sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continues to increase each year. In April of this year, the CDC reported yet another record-breaking year for infections from their 2019 data, 2.6 million.

Dr. Austin Sherman, a physician with Coastal Family Medicine, a part of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, says the increase in infections can be attributed to, among other causes, higher divorce rates and the easing of pandemic restrictions.

“For the younger crowd, I think a lot of it does have to do with, you know, after the pandemic,” said Sherman. “People were stuck inside for a while and definitely wanted to get out there and maybe safe sex wasn’t on the top of their list of things to really adhere to.”

Sherman says testing is key to stopping the spread of STDs and encourages sexually active people, regardless of age, to get tested if they recognize any symptoms of an infection. He also says, however, that some patients may be asymptomatic.

“A lot of people think that ‘If I have classic symptoms I should go get tested’ which is obviously true,” said Sherman. “However, a lot of these STDs are asymptomatic or you might not feel anything or you might feel completely normal and you might have an STD which, honestly, can lead to you spreading it to other people which is something that is, obviously, very dangerous.”

The most commonly reported STDs in recent years in the United States have been chlamydia and gonorrhea, according to the CDC.

Sherman expects the number of reported STDs to increase again in 2021, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. He also says there is no relation between STDs and the COVID-19 vaccine, saying that the best way to prevent an infection is to practice safe sexual habits.

“There is no correlation between getting the vaccine and actually getting an STD,” Sherman said. “If you get the vaccine or if you don’t get the vaccine, I don’t think there’s going to be a higher chance of you getting that STD. STDs work on their own terms, so if somebody has an STD and you have unsafe sex, the chances of you getting that STD are very high regardless of vaccination status.”

The Wake County Health Department offers STD testing by walk-in or appointment on weekdays. You can find out more information on how to schedule an appointment here. You can click here for information on testing in Durham County, click here for information on testing in Orange County, and click here for information on testing in Cumberland County.

Copyright 2021 WECT. All rights reserved. CBS 17 contributed to this report.