Rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continue to increase in California, according to new statistics from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). These diseases are reportable to the State and local health departments. The data are presented in CDPH’s 2016 STD Annual Report: a summary can also be found on CDPH’s website at cdph.ca.gov.
Over a quarter million cases of STDs were reported in 2016, a 40-percent increase compared to five years ago, including: 198,503 cases of chlamydia; 64,677 of gonorrhea; and 11,222 of early syphilis. Particularly concerning to health officials, 207 cases of congenital syphilis were reported. 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.
“The number of reported STDs in California is increasing at a concerning rate,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “This is the third year in a row that we have seen increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.”
These three diseases can be prevented by consistent use of condoms, and they can be cured with antibiotics, so regular testing and treatment are very important, even for people who have no symptoms, according to the CDPH.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are highest among people under age 30. Rates of chlamydia are highest among young women, whereas males account for the majority of syphilis and gonorrhea cases.
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,” Smith said. “Getting tested regularly is one of the most important steps.”