'Shameful' Finding in California STD Report

Rise in STDs accompanied 30 stillbirths caused by congenital syphilis in 2017
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2018 3:40 PM CDT
'Shameful' Finding in California STD Report
This 1975 file microscope image shows chlamydia trachomatis bacteria magnified 200 times.   (Dr. E. Arum, Dr. N. Jacobs/CDC via AP, File)

STDs are booming in California, with health officials worried about a 45% increase over the last five years. In 2017, there were 218,710 reported cases of chlamydia, the highest number since 1990, representing a 9% increase over 2016. There were another 75,450 cases of gonorrhea, the highest number since 1988 and a 16% increase over 2016, and 13,605 cases of syphilis, the highest in 30 years and a 20% increase over 2016, according to a report by the California Department of Public Health. "We've been seeing increases for all three diseases for the last five or six years," department rep James Watt tells the San Francisco Chronicle, though particularly concerning is a 30% increase in stillbirths caused by congenital syphilis. There were 30 in 2017, California's highest number since 1995.

"For California to have a steady increase in congenital syphilis is shameful," UCLA professor Jeffrey Klausner tells the AP, noting Cuba and Thailand have almost eliminated the condition. He points to the "decimation" of public health infrastructure, including the closure of clinics and sex education programs, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Watt agrees that's one factor. But "the internet allows for a broadening of sexual networks, and the broader that gets the more opportunity you have for sexually transmitted diseases to spread," he says. Other stats: African-Americans had rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea five times higher than whites; chlamydia rates were 60% higher among females than males, while males had twice as many gonorrhea cases. (The increases are part of a wider trend.)

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