Local health officials in Kern County, United States, are sounding the alarm on the disturbing increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The groups that are most affected by this crisis are high school students and young expectant women.
Sexually Transmitted Infections Rates
692 chlamydia cases in every 100,000 people were reported in 2015, which is a 9% increase from 2011. Gonorrhoea cases have gone up 44% since 2011 with 175 cases reported in every 100,000 people.
Syphilis showed the most increase with a 72% increase in 2015. This translated to 18.3 cases reported in every 100,000 people. This is more dangerous especially for the expectant mothers because if left untreated, it can cause congenital syphilis, which can be fatal for the baby. In 2015 alone, the number of syphilis cases went up 96%.
When compared to other counties, Kern County is ranked second worst state for chlamydia, primary syphilis and congenital syphilis. The state is also ranked seventh worst for gonorrhoea.
The Syphilis Issue
Local health officials are more concerned about syphilis rates; congenital syphilis to be more specific than any other sexually transmitted disease. The concern is also observed across the country with California leading the nation with 141 cases in 2015.
Congenital syphilis can cause severe illness, miscarriage, stillbirth and early infant death. The fatality rate for this form of syphilis is 40%. However, it is 98% preventable if the mother is treated early during pregnancy.
The problem with syphilis is that it is a silent killer, that is, it is difficult to detect without screening. A rash on the hand and blisters or lesions are some of the symptoms of the STI which may go away after some time causing people to believe that they are okay and healthy when the symptoms have just gone dormant and can sometimes do so for many years.
The cause for the rise in congenital syphilis can be attributed to one of two factors; lack of quality prenatal healthcare and lifestyle choices. In the case of lack of quality prenatal healthcare, healthcare officials state that if expectant women were screened and treated for syphilis during their pregnancy, the disease would not be passed to infants.
In fact, they add that many of the congenital cases observed come from women who have not had any prenatal care at all. In the case of lifestyle choices, healthcare officials believe that the spike in syphilis cases could be due to the result of rampant drug abuse among some populations.
What is the Cause for the Spike in STD Rates?
Health officials have no observable reason for the increase in STD cases but suggest that it might be due to a mix of different factors such as socioeconomic barriers, lack of access to care, overlapping sexual networks and lack of appropriate prevention services at the state and local levels.
Steps Taken to Curb Spread of STDs
Public health officials at Kern County have come up with ways to reduce the number of new STD cases despite lack of support from state agencies.
One such way is the “Know your risk” campaign that will be launched on a website designed to give information on STDs. In addition, clinic pharmacists have been given the green light to prescribe drugs for patients during STD screening as well as prescribing medication for partners of those patients. The agency is also handing out free condoms to everyone in a bid to promote safe sex.
Even though the cases are reaching an alarming point especially for pregnant women, it’s encouraging to see that the affected counties such as Kern County are taking steps to address this issue.