“Because these are closed pools of people in limited geographies [using dating apps], it means that infections can spread more easily,” he said.
In particular, according to John Auerbach, president and CEO of the public health nonprofit the Trust for America’s Health, the anonymous encounters happening via apps make it harder to do contact tracing, a key epidemiological process in understanding an outbreak.
Health officials in states around the country have linked recent STD outbreaks to the rise in internet dating.
In one study looking at the link between Craigslist personal ads and HIV, researchers at the University of Minnesota identified an increase in HIV cases in 33 states between 19 — and determined that the advent of Craigslist alone contributed to a 16 percent increase in cases.
In other words, what matters more than the apps themselves may be the behavior of people who use them.
Either way, dating apps and sites appear to be helping facilitate connections — and disease outbreaks — that may not have otherwise happened.