Monday, November 20News That Matters

Rate of syphilis nearly doubles in Alachua County


Sexually-transmitted diseases hit a record high in the United States, and they’re crawling up in local counties.

Sexually-transmitted diseases are at a record high across the nation, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they’re on the rise in Florida counties, too.

The United States had more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2016, which was a record, the CDC announced Tuesday.

Alachua County saw the biggest increase in its infectious syphilis rates, which rose to 32.8 cases per 100,000 people from 17.7 per 100,000. That’s nearly four times the national rate of 8.7 cases per 100,000, and puts the county on the CDC’s list of the top 70 cities and counties with highest number of cases reported in 2016.

While syphilis can be easily treated with full recovery if discovered early, left untreated it can lead to serious, permanent health complications.

The county’s rates of gonorrhea increased to 229.8 cases per 100,000 from 222.7 per 100,000, and its chlamydia rates increased to 862.7 per 100,000, from 859.9 per 100,000 the year before.

In Marion County in 2016, rates of infectious syphilis fell to 2.6 cases per 100,000 people from 2.9 per 100,000. Gonorrhea rates increased to 116.2 per 100,000 from 89.9 per 100,000, and rates of chlamydia increased to 419.2 per 100,000 from 390 per 100,000.

Marion County had 1,870 combined cases of infectious syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in 2016.

While Marion County’s rates were lower than Florida’s average rates, those in Alachua County were higher.

And there could be more people who have gonorrhea and chlamydia because the diseases don’t always show symptoms, said Roger Dolz, senior public health services manager in the Alachua County Health Department.

“A lot of people might have one of these and not know that they have it,” Dolz said.

And he cautions that an STD test that comes back negative isn’t useful if an individual has unprotected sex.

Dolz said the increased numbers likely reflect both a rise in cases of disease and an increase in testing for and reporting diseases.

“We try to screen,” he said. “At no point are we going to say we’re going to test less.”

Individuals can talk to their primary care physician about getting screened for STDs or contact the health department, which has satellite clinics across the county.

Dolz said the health department focuses on public education to help end stigma surrounding STDs.

“We need to get over that stigma for people to, one, get tested, and two, get treated,” Dolz said.

Alachua County

Chlamydia: 2,237

Gonorrhea: 596

Syphilis: 85

Marion County

Chlamydia: 1,457

Gonorrhea: 404

Syphilis: 9

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