The Grapevine

STD Rate In California Hits New High: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis Worst Culprits

According to a recent report, sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnoses reached record highs in the state of California in 2017. Released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the data revealed a 45 percent increase in cases compared to data from five years ago.

"STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics," said CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith. "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."

On May 14, health officials stated that more than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and early syphilis were reported in 2017. Here's what you should know about them:


Chlamydia can be transmitted by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex, affecting both men and women. Symptoms include abnormal discharge and a burning sensation during urination, though these signs may not appear for weeks.

Chlamydia can damage the female reproductive system, reducing or completely blocking their ability to get pregnant in the future. As many as 218,710 cases of chlamydia were recorded, marking the highest rate since 1990. According to the new report, young female Californians comprised of the majority of cases. 

"So in San Francisco, we recommend young women 25 and under get screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea every year with their provider. And for gay men and other men who have sex with men and trans persons, they should have STD screening every three months," said Dr. Susan Philip from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.


Common among young people aged 15-24, gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. While it may be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, it can also be passed on from a woman to her baby during childbirth. Discharge, bleeding between periods, swollen testicles are some of the symptoms of gonorrhea. 

In California, 75,450 gonorrhea cases were reported in 2017, marking it the highest number since 1988. Thirty-three percent of cases involved people under 25 while rates among men were twice as high as women. If left untreated, gonorrhea can increase chances of getting or transmitting HIV.


Different stages of syphilis (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary) have different symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states. It can occur after direct contact with a syphilis sore during sexual intercourse. 

If left untreated, the STD can lead to loss of vision, brain disease, and hearing problems. Additionally, an infected mother can spread syphilis to her unborn baby. Being diagnosed with syphilis during pregnancy can also put the unborn baby at risk of having a low birth weight, being delivered early or death (stillbirth). The report found that there were 30 stillbirths due to congenital syphilis in 2017, with a total of 278 congenital syphilis cases. With 13,605 recorded cases, early syphilis reached its highest rate since 1987.

The CDPH expressed plans to collaborate with local health departments and organizations in order to raise awareness about regular testing, safe sex practices, risks and treatment options, etc.