A record number of Californians were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in 2017, according to a new report released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
A Billboard advertises free STD tests using a play on former former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders's campaign slogan.
Reports said Chlamydia was the most commonly reported STD, especially for people between the ages of 20 to 24. Syphilis may also cause neurological problems, as well as permanent loss of vision and hearing.
Another concerning number from the state health agency is that 30 stillbirths occurred in California due to syphilis.
The almost half a million nationwide cases of gonorrhea in 2016 is even more urgent.
'For California to have a steady increase in congenital syphilis is shameful, ' said Dr Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine at University of California, Los Angeles. He also noted that Thailand, Cuba, and Belarus almost eliminated infection in infants.
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"We've known how to control syphilis since the early 1900s". Seeing it come back like this is a sign of failure of the public health safety net, ' Klausner said. Many people with STD do not know they have it. The health department also looks forward to providing education regarding the risk of such STDs, and about screening and treatment. It is the highest registered number since 1995.
Washington state health officials said many factors went into the rate rising, but it was partially a lack of knowledge and access to care.
That latter stat is particularly troubling to public health officials given the long-term dangers of untreated syphilis, which can cause brain damage. 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.
Experts agreed that sex education in schools and programs in the community raising awareness and having a public discussion about the often stigmatized conditions.
"While there are advocates and champions for cancer, nobody is out there saying, 'I have gonorrhea and these are the best ways to treat it, '" Klausner told the Associated Press.
"STDs are preventable by consistently using condoms, and many STDs can be cured with antibiotics", said CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith in a statement.