California STD cases jumps 45 percent in 5 years

by WorldTribune Staff, May 15, 2018

California reported a record number of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in 2017, according to data released by the state’s Department of Public Health.

More than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported last year, a 45 percent increase from five years ago.

“We’ve known how to control syphilis since the early 1900s. Seeing it come back like this is a sign of failure of the public health safety net,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine at UCLA.

State health officials were particularly concerned by an increase in stillbirths due to congenital syphilis. The report said 30 stillbirths resulting from congenital syphilis were reported statewide in 2017 – the highest number reported since 1995.

Los Angeles County alone saw congenital syphilis cases jump from eight in 2013 to 47 last year.

“For California to have a steady increase in congenital syphilis is shameful,” said Klausner, who noted that nations such as Cuba, Thailand and Belarus have nearly eliminated the life-threatening infection seen in infants.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are most common among people under 30, the health department’s report said. Rates of chlamydia are highest among young women, while men account for the majority of syphilis and gonorrhea cases.

If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain. Syphilis can result in blindness, hearing loss and neurologic problems.

Dr. Heidi Bauer, chief of the state health department’s STD Control Branch, suggested the rise in STDs may be a symptom of more general problems in areas such as the economically hard-hit San Joaquin Valley where people are struggling with poverty, substance abuse, mental health issues and homelessness.

She also faulted the funneling of patients away from public health services toward primary care physicians under Obamacare.

“For sexual health, primary care wasn’t the most effective method,” Bauer said. Someone who depended on public clinics for STD screening and treatment may not want to discuss it with their doctor, or may not have a doctor at all, she said.

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