STD Rate In California Hits New High: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis Worst Culprits

A table depicts the number of gonorrhea cases reported in L.A. County from 2012 to 2017

A table depicts the number of gonorrhea cases reported in L.A. County from 2012 to 2017

California is in the midst of a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) epidemic, and it's so bad that the number of stillbirths due to syphilis has reached a 20-year high, U.S. News & World Report is reporting.

Health experts have a number of theories as to why all these STDs are on the rise. This is the highest number reported since 1995. The state health agency reminds Californians that chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain if they go untreated.

There were 13,605 early syphilis cases reported in 2017, people reporting the first stage of the disease marked by sores in or around the mouth and genitals. Syphilis can lead to blindness, hearing loss and neurological issues, the wire service said.

The findings from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) show significant spikes in common STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia between 2000 and 2017 (chlamydia rates rose 9% compared to 2016, reaching an all-time high among both males and females, while gonorrhea infections rose 16% from 2016). The Pew Research Center likewise revealed in a 2016 report that 12 percent of American adults have used an online dating site.

'For California to have a steady increase in congenital syphilis is shameful, ' said Dr Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.

The "public health safety net" Klausner refers to has been decimated by budget cuts since the 2008 financial crisis.

Adding to the problem, says Dr. Heidi Bauer, chief of the state health department's STD Control Branch, is the fact that many Californians have been steered away from getting their health treatment at public clinics, and into private practice via the Affordable Care Act. CDPH is working 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. Many people with STD do not know they have it. In women, it can also be passed to the baby, called congenital syphilis and can result in stillbirth, early death, or long-term infection.

"While there are advocates and champions for cancer, nobody is out there saying, 'I have gonorrhea and these are the best ways to treat it, '" Klausner told the Associated Press.

"STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics", said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.

Rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have been rising nationally for several years.

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