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STD rates continue to be a concern in California

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

All sexually active individuals should be regularly using STD testing services, but people in certain states in particular should be cautious about sexually transmitted diseases. For example, California has been experiencing an increase in syphilis rates. This is a serious infection that can not only harm the person who has it, but can be passed on to unborn babies as well, often with devastating consequences.

The Huffington Post reported that the California Department of Public Health recently released a study which showed that syphilis morbidity rates increased between 2011 and 2012. There was a 25 percent increase in syphilis cases from 2011 to 2012 in San Francisco alone, which highlights a worrisome trend.

Challenging infection
According to the news source, it can be particularly difficult to treat syphilis, because it has so many stages. Furthermore, the early stages of syphilis often go unnoticed. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the first stages of syphilis there is usually just a small, round sore on the part of the body where the infection entered. This sore is painless, and will clear up after three weeks regardless of whether a person receives treatment, which is why many people simply ignore it.

However, if syphilis is allowed to progress to its final stage, it can cause paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness and dementia. Also, syphilis can damage major organs, including the heart and brain, eventually leading to death.

The source stated that many of the new cases in California have been attributed to homosexual men, though the exact reason why this population is not practicing safer sex is unknown. The news source cited a San Francisco Weekly article which speculated that the number of people who meet strangers online and engage in sexual activity could also be driving up syphilis cases.

Of course, a higher number of cases can also simply mean that more people are getting tested for this STD, which could be a positive thing in the long run if it keeps people from unknowingly spreading the infection to others.

This latest California Department of Public Health report is not that surprising for health officials, who have been working for years to increase condom use in California.

"The CDC recently released a report that listed condom distribution as one of its top four priorities for disease prevention," Tracey Packer, acting director of HIV Prevention at the Department of Public Health told The Huffington Post in November, 2012. "We want to make sure San Francisco gets the condoms it needs."

However, while attempting to distribute more condoms is a good idea, some experts have pointed out that it may not be enough.

"We can't keep doing the same things we've always done and wonder why things aren't improving," STD Prevention and Control Services Director Susan Philips told San Francisco Weekly. "We're taking a new holistic approach that looks at the entire person. It's a brave new world."

Take precaution
People who are concerned about their chances of contracting syphilis should always use a condom during sexual activity. Furthermore, they should get tested regularly to make sure that they do not already have the infection. Pregnant women in particular should be tested for syphilis, since it can cause blindness in babies if left untreated, but can be controlled if it is discovered early. A simple shot is all it takes to clear up syphilis, so people shouldn't be afraid to discover if they have this common STD.

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