A lot of people are having unprotected sex – and are putting themselves and their partners at grave risk.
The latest annual reports on sexually transmitted diseases for California and the United States released Tuesday show cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are at all-time record highs.
And people in Fresno County contributed more than their fair share of STDs to the state total, ranking highest for babies born with syphilis and second-highest for syphilis in California. The county came in third for chlamydia.
Dr. Ken Bird, Fresno County’s health officer, said the rates are unacceptable. “Numbers and rates of infectious illnesses such as these (most especially congenital syphilis) should not be being seen in a society that is adequately investing in public health and efficiently coordinating and making readily available appropriate and complete education, adequate and regular screening, and correct and timely treatment,” Bird said.
Nationwide in 2016, there were more than 2 million STD cases: 1,598,354 chlamydia, 468,514 gonorrhea and 28,814 cases of primary and secondary syphilis.
The numbers are the highest ever, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the federal agency’s National Center for HIV/AIDs, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number and outpacing our ability to respond.”
In California, there were more than 250,000 cases of STDS reported in 2016, a 40 percent increase compared to five years ago, the California Department of Public Health said. The increase is the third year in a row that numbers have grown.
Most of the cases – 198,503 – in California were cases of chlamydia. But the state had 64,677 cases of gonorrhea and 11,222 cases of early syphilis.
Most concerning were 207 cases of congenital syphilis that, if not caught early in pregnancy, can be passed to babies and result in stillbirth or permanent, lifelong disabilities.
Fresno County has the highest rate of congenital syphilis in the state. In 2016, 51 babies were born here with syphilis, for a rate of 336.3 per 100,000.
The county also ranked second-highest for primary and secondary syphilis – the most infectious stages of the disease – with 390 cases and a rate of 39.4 per 100,000. San Francisco ranked highest at 59.0 per 100,000.
Fresno County reported 6,492 cases of chlamydia for a rate of 656.3 per 100,000, ranking it third-highest in California. San Francisco had a rate of 939.4 per 100,000 and Kern County, 714.1 per 100,000.
Fresno County reported 2,000 cases of gonorrhea in 2016, for a rate of 202.2 – fifth-highest in the state.
The diseases can be prevented by consistent use of condoms, and they can be cured with antibiotics.
“All Californians need to know how to protect themselves and their partners,” said Dr. Karen Smith, the state health director and health officer. “Getting tested regularly is one of the most important steps.”