Reported sexually transmitted diseases have reached an all-time high across the state following an increase in gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia rates across the state and Humboldt County from 2015 to 2016, according to the California Department of Public Health’s 2016 STD Annual Report released on Tuesday.
“The number of reported STDs in California is increasing at a concerning rate,” California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said in a news release. “This is the third year in a row that we have seen increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.”
According to the CDPH report, there were 198,503 reported cases of chlamydia across the state in 2016, up from 189,935 in 2015. In Humboldt County there were 751, up from 622 cases in 2015. Humboldt County has a chlamydia rate of 551.9 cases per 100,000 people which exceeds the state rate of 504.4 per 100,000.
There were 64,677 reported cases of gonorrhea across the state in 2016, up from 54,234 in 2015. In 2016 there were 255 cases reported in Humboldt County up from 239 cases in 2015. Humboldt County has a gonorrhea rate of 187.4 cases per 100,000 people while California has only 164.3 per 100,000, according to the report.
According to the report, there were 5,897 primary and secondary syphilis cases across the state in 2016 and only 4,906 in 2015. Humboldt County had 9 reported cases in 2016 which jumped from only 1 in 2015. Humboldt County has a syphilis rate of 6.6 cases per 100,000 people while the state has a rate of 15 per 100,000.
“We are seeing record numbers of STDs so we would certainly encourage getting tested, using condoms and communicating with your partners,” Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services public health nurse supervisor Eric Gordon said.
Gordon said residents are having sex with more partners, have more anonymous sexual partners, use internet or smartphone-based dating services that lend themselves to connecting with anonymous partners and people aren’t using condoms.
“It’s hard to put our fingers on one thing,” he said.
Gordon said his department reaches out to local medical service providers to ask them to give high-risk patients STD tests.
“So we catch it right now as opposed to later,” he said.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea case rates are higher than the state average because sometimes people don’t know they have it, Gordon said.
“In half of the cases folks are asymptomatic, but they can still pass it along,” he said.
This is a factor, Planned Parenthood Northern California senior education manager Toni Donovan said.
“That’s definitely one of the reasons why, but I would really add lack of information on top of that,” she said.
Donovan said maybe people would be more sexually responsible if they knew the full effects of these diseases.
“These things can cause long-lasting health issues,” she said including sterility and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Donovan said the rural nature of Humboldt County also lends itself to the problem.
“It’s the unfortunate truth that rural communities really lack resources,” she said.
And this isn’t the only challenge.
“STD programs in general have seen a decrease in funding,” Gordon said.
He said DHHS, Planned Parenthood and the Open Door Health system are places people can go to get tested or get information but added that most medical facilities should be able to do STD testing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, there are 10 facilities across the county that administer STD tests mostly in the Humboldt Bay area but also in Willow Creek and Hoopa. Find the one closest to you at gettested.cdc.gov.
A summary of the report can be found here: goo.gl/MqQpec.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.