According to new statistics from the California Department of Public Health, the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continue to increase in California.
Many of those increases were in the Central Valley.
More than a quarter million cases of STDs were reported in 2016, a 40 percent increase compared to five years ago. The numbers: 198,503 cases of Chlamydia, 64,677 of gonorrhea, and 11,222 of early syphilis.
The 2016 report is prepared to provide the most recent data on the burden of reportable bacterial STDs among Californians and is intended to inform state and local public health program STD control interventions for reducing the impact of STDs in collaboration with clinical, community, and governmental partners.
“The number of reported STDs in California is increasing at a concerning rate,” said state public health director Dr. Karen Smith. “This is the third year in a row that we have seen increases in Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.”
Also 207 cases of congenital syphilis were reported, which is concerning to state health officials. If not caught early, syphilis during pregnancy can result in congenital syphilis leading to stillbirth or permanent, lifelong disabilities. Syphilis can also cause permanent loss of vision, hearing and other neurologic problems in adults.
If left untreated, STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection and lead to lifelong reproductive health problems.
California ranked first among all states in 2016 based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data for the total number of cases for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis, according to the report.
According to CDPH, these three diseases can be prevented by consistent use of condoms, and they can be cured with antibiotics, so regular testing and treatment is very important, even for people who have no symptoms.
Here are some of the key findings of the report:
Chlamydia (CT) remains the most frequently reported disease in California.3
▪ There were 198,503 CT cases reported in 2016 (504.4 per 100,000 population), a 5% increase in cases over 2015 and 17% increase since 2012.
▪ There were 14 counties with Chlamydia rates higher than the overall state rate (504.4) including Kern (714.1), Fresno (656.3), Kings (576.9), Sacramento (566.5), Tulare (562.3), and San Joaquin (514.4).
Gonorrhea (GC) rates continued to increase sharply across all regions of the state.5
▪ There were 64,677 GC cases (164.3 per 100,000 population) reported in 2016, a 19% increase in cases over 2015 and a near doubling since 2012.
▪ Increases in GC cases and rates of at least 10-20% and higher were found across almost all counties. There were nine counties with gonorrhea rates higher than the overall state rate (164.3) including: Kern (202.9), Fresno (202.2), and Sacramento (190.4).
Early syphilis (ES), which includes primary, secondary, and early latent stages, continued to increase in 2016 in all regions of the state.
▪ There were 11,222 ES cases reported in 2016 (28.5 per 100,000 population). This represents a 19% increase in cases over 2015 and a two-fold increase since 2012.
▪ There were six counties with early syphilis rates higher than the overall state rate (28.5) including Fresno (64.7), San Joaquin (58.2), and Kern (42.1).
Congenital syphilis (CS) increased for the fourth consecutive year.11
▪ In 2016, there were 207 cases (42.4 per 100,000 live births), a 43% increase in cases since 2015 and six-fold higher when compared with the 33 CS cases in 2012.
▪ According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the congenital syphilis incidence rate in California in 2015 was the second highest incidence rate in the United States. Twenty-six (of 61) local health jurisdictions reported at least one case of congenital syphilis in 2016. Counties with the highest number of cases include Fresno, Kern, and Los Angeles.
Regular screening for STDs is recommended for people who are sexually active. STD services also provide opportunities for further prevention of HIV through testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
“All Californians need to know how to protect themselves and their partners,” said Smith. “Getting tested regularly is one of the most important steps.”
A directory of where to get tested can be found at this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage.
According to CDPH, they are collaborating with the California Department of Education and community groups to implement the newly enacted California Healthy Youth Act, which mandates comprehensive STD/HIV prevention education in schools. For more information, go to the CDPH Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control Branch website.