Three common STDs — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — are surging across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, and especially hard-hit are those between 15-24 years old, which are estimated to account for half of all new sexually transmitted infections each year. Sacramento County is no exception. In 2017, there were 5,581 reported cases of chlamydia, 1,174 gonorrhea cases, and 97 syphilis cases reported among this same age group.
“Looking at the issues that can threaten the health and well being of our children, families and communities, the Sacramento County Public Health Division works to raise awareness of critical health issues and provides the information and tools to help prevent chronic diseases and infectious disease outbreaks,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye.
The consequences of STDs are especially severe for young people. Chlamydia and gonorrhea often have no symptoms; therefore, many infections go undiagnosed and can lead to lifelong repercussions for a woman’s reproductive health, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Early detection through testing is key to avoiding these consequences, yet research has shown many young people don’t talk with their health providers about sexual health issues at all during annual health visits.
All but eradicated 20 years ago, syphilis is making a comeback. In 2017, California was reported to have the second highest syphilis rates in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Sacramento County last year saw three times the number of cases than in 2015. Although syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, for those who aren’t treated, the infection can be dormant for years and lead to neurological or cardiovascular complications, and mothers with untreated syphilis can transmit the disease to their unborn babies with dire consequences – including blindness, developmental delays, physical deformities, and death.
Another trend the Department of Health Services has become aware of is the overlap of syphilis and meth use. The divisions of Public Health and Behavioral Health’s Alcohol` and Drug Services are working together and this issue will be a topic for the upcoming May 9 Sacramento County Methamphetamine Coalition Meeting
Sacramento County Director of the Department of Health Services Dr. Peter Beilenson said, “Meth use can increase risky behavior, which increases the odds of contracting sexually transmitted infections. To preserve health and prevent the spread of disease to others, it is important to know your risks, learn how to prevent STDs, get tested for STDs and get treated.”
The total reported in Sacramento County for all ages in 2017:
- 9,803 Chlamydia cases
- 3,344 Gonorrhea cases
- 454 Syphilis cases (primary/secondary/early latent)
STDs: Prevent, Test, Treat
To prevent the spread of STDs, the Sacramento County Division of Public Health’s HIV/STD Prevention Program
provides residents with a variety of STD/HIV prevention and education services including:
- STD/HIV education and prevention information and condom distribution
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea screening
- HIV antibody testing and risk reduction counseling
- Linkage to HIV and STD treatment
- Community involvement through the Sacramento Workgroup to Improve Sexual Health and the HIV Health Services Planning Council
- Other STD/HIV outreach activities and social marketing campaigns
Getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things a person can do to protect their health, but it’s not the only thing. There are several ways to prevent STDs. The most reliable way is to not have sex, but there are many options if you are sexually active: talk openly with partners and healthcare providers about your sexual health; get testing for STDs including HIV; use latex or polyurethane condoms correctly and each time you have sex; and know the sexual histories of your sexual partners. If you test positive for an STD get treated right away – and be sure your partner is also treated to lower the risk of getting infected again. And finally, if you are a parent, talk to your kids about STDs and their sexual health.