STD cases reaching all-time highs in U.S., California

Repost! Author: Soumya Karlamangla Published:


Much to the worry of public health officials, new national data show that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are climbing in the United States and have reached an all-time high.

A report released this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that though rates of these sexually transmitted diseases fluctuated over the last five years, all three spiked in 2014. The center called the increases “alarming.”

“America’s worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention.

The volume of chlamydia cases last year was particularly staggering. Nationwide, there were about 1.4 million cases, which is the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC.

The picture in California is even bleaker. Cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been steadily increasing here since 2010, while national rates sometimes stagnated or even dipped. In 2014, the rates for all three diseases were higher in the Golden State than in the nation overall.

The new data also show that among the more than 3,000 counties in the nation, Los Angeles County had the most cases of all three diseases in 2014. That’s partly because it’s home to more people than any other county, but also because of high rates of those infections.

Here’s how the prevalence of those diseases in 2014 in L.A. County and California compare with the rest of the country.

  • Chlamydia in the U.S.: 456 cases per 100,000 people
  • Chlamydia in California: 460 cases per 100,000 people
  • Chlamydia in L.A. County: 548 cases per 100,000 people
  • Gonorrhea in the U.S.: 111 cases per 100,000 people
  • Gonorrhea in California: 119 cases per 100,000 people
  • Gonorrhea in L.A. County: 153 cases per 100,000 people
  • Primary and secondary syphilis in the U.S.: 6 cases per 100,000 people
  • Primary and secondary syphilis in California: 10 cases per 100,000 people
  • Primary and secondary syphilis in L.A. County: 12 cases per 100,000 people

Neither California nor L.A. County had the highest rates for any of the diseases.

“STDs are a substantial health challenge facing the United States,” a CDC report summary says. “Each of these infections is a potential threat to an individual’s immediate and long-term health and well-being.”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common and curable diseases, but if not treated can cause serious problems such as infertility in women. Officials estimate that undiagnosed STDs cause 20,000 women in the country to become infertile each year.

More than half of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are among people between the ages of 15 and 24. Officials recommend that sexually active women under 25 be tested annually for these diseases.

Syphilis, which is also curable, can lead to complications such as blindness if allowed to progress.

It has been of particular concern in California, where cases of congenital syphilis — in which a mother infects her child during pregnancy — surged between 2012 and 2014, with cases increasing from 30 to 100. Stillbirths caused by syphilis in California also rose from one case in 2012 to six in 2014.

Health officials recommend using condoms during sex to prevent the spread of these diseases.


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