Reported Sexually Transmitted Diseases Reach Epidemic Levels in California

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today released final data on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in California in 2018. According to the data, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia cases are continuing to increase throughout California and are at the highest levels in 30 years.

Particularly concerning, the number of congenital syphilis cases was 14% higher than the previous year and nearly 900% higher than in 2012. Congenital syphilis can be fatal to infants: there were 22 stillbirths or neonatal deaths in 2018.

In 2018, the number of reported cases was: 25,344 for syphilis (all stages) – 265% more than 10 years ago 79,397 for gonorrhea – 211% more than 10 years ago 232,181 for chlamydia – 56% more than 10 years ago.

STDs are increasing in all regions of the state, among both men and women. Disparities in STD rates persist throughout the state, with the highest among young people (ages 15-24), AfricanAmericans, and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Underlying drivers of the increases of STDs relate to a complex web of social factors. Some people diagnosed with STD have experienced substance use, incarceration, the exchange of sex for money/housing/other resources, poverty, homelessness and disparities in access to care.

STDs can cause a number of serious health problems. If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. Syphilis can cause permanent loss of vision, hearing and other neurologic problems.