More Californians were diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis in 2017 than ever before, marking the third year in a row that the state’s sexually transmitted disease cases hit a record high, officials said.
The trend is mirrored nationwide, where STDs have been rising for five years. Experts blame the increases on falling condom use, fewer public health clinics and people having more sexual partners linked to dating apps.
“STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics,” California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith said in a statement. “Regular testing and treatment are very important for people who are sexually active, even for people who have no symptoms. Most people infected with an STD do not know it.”
More than 300,000 people in the state were diagnosed with syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia last year, a 45% increase compared to five years ago, state officials said.
Officials said they were especially concerned that as the number of women with syphilis has jumped, so has the number of babies born with syphilis passed from their mothers. Congenital syphilis, as it is known, can cause stillbirths or permanent disabilities.
Since 2013, the number of babies in California born with congenital syphilis has more than quadrupled — to 278 last year. There were more babies born with congenital syphilis in California in 2017 than there have been since 1995, according to state data.
There were 47 babies born with congenital syphilis in Los Angeles County alone last year.
Of the state’s 58 counties, Los Angeles County had the third-highest rate of gonorrhea, the eighth-highest rate of chlamydia and the ninth-highest rate of primary and secondary syphilis. The county had the 14th-highest rate of congenital syphilis.