California catches chlamydia, STDs on the rise statewide

Kali Persall,
Managing Editor

The test results are in and the diagnosis is alarming: California is leading the nation in sexually transmitted disease rates, a 2015 report by the California Department of Public Health revealed last month. The report found that cases in syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased 11.6 percent statewide over the past year.

There were 249,224 reported cases in the state in 2015: 189,937 cases of chlamydia, 54,255 cases of gonorrhea, 4,890 cases of primary and secondary syphilis — the beginning stages where treatment is possible — and 142 cases of congenital syphilis, a life-threatening form of the disease that appears in infants.

The CDPH attributes these increases to a variety of factors, such as decreased condom use, an increase in sexual partners, lack of access to comprehensive health care and STD testing and improvements in public health reporting, which has brought more statistics to the forefront.

STDs account for almost $16 billion in health care costs, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The spike in cases may also be connected to recent budget cuts that directly affected state and local STD programs that help treat and prevent these diseases. In one year alone, over 20 STD clinics were forced to close, according to the CDC.

Chlamydia is difficult to detect and most people don’t report any symptoms at all, according to the CDC. Both men and women who do experience symptoms report abnormal discharge, burning during urination and in rare cases for men, pain and swelling of the testicles. Chlamydia is a common STD that can have serious effects on a woman’s ability to bear children.

Gonorrhea carries similar symptoms as chlamydia, but can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat, according to the CDC.

Syphilis manifests in multiple stages, which can overlap,the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. reports. During the primary stage, contagious sores appear on the body, anywhere between three weeks and three months after infection. The secondary stage involves more sores and flu-like symptoms and the late stage can cause tumors, blindness or paralysis.

All three of the STD’s can be cured with antibiotics and consistent medical care.

The study revealed that women ages 15-24 accounted for 63 percent of the state’s female chlamydia cases and 51 percent of gonorrhea cases. Gay and bisexual men were also at risk, and accounted for 62 percent of male cases in California and 84 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases.

In Alameda County alone, there were 4,932 cases of chlamydia in females and 3,142 cases in males; 941 cases of gonorrhea in females and 1,870 in males; and 160 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in females and 147 in males, according to a 2015 CDPH local health jurisdiction STD data summary.

Nationwide, Americans in this age bracket made up two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses and half of gonorrhea cases. Women’s syphilis rates increased 27 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to the CDC. The CDPH reported that it is working to distribute $5 million in grants to local health departments to expand STD programs.