Health & Medicine

Chlamydia still is on the rise in SLO County, while gonorrhea drops

Correctly using a condom every time reduces the risk of sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. Public health officials have recently seen an uptick in newly-diagnosed HIV patients.
Correctly using a condom every time reduces the risk of sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. Public health officials have recently seen an uptick in newly-diagnosed HIV patients.

The number of people diagnosed with chlamydia in San Luis Obispo County increased again last year, reflecting a statewide and nationwide trends that show an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

Last year, 1,249 people in the county were diagnosed with the disease that spreads through bodily fluids. That's up from the 778 number of people diagnosed with chlamydia six years earlier.

"The numbers just keep going up," said Ann McDowell, an epidemiologist with the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

The increase is especially important to young women because they have a particularly high prevalence of a disease that if left untreated can damage the reproductive system and cause infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



While the number of chlamydia cases has risen each of the last six years, incidence of gonorrhea, which has also seen a steady rise of late, retreated in 2017. The county recorded 176 cases of gonorrhea last year, down from a recent high of 230 in 2016.

Nevertheless, the incidence of gonorrhea in SLO County is since 2011, when only 51 cases were reported.

That's particularly concerning as gonorrhea is becoming drug resistant and hard to treat.

Gonorrhea has become harder to treat over the past several decades, as the bacteria becomes resistant to various drugs. It's a major public health concern — it can cause health problems such as infertility, life-threatening pregnancy or increased

That STDS in general are on the rise locally and across the country is a concern to health officials, because it shows that people aren't practicing safe sex, such as using a condom.

"It's a bellwether of risky behavior that people can't afford in an era of sexually transmitted diseases that can be deadly," McDowell said.

If you're sexually active, here's what you should do

"Get tested and protect yourself," said Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer. "If you are sexually active or ever have been, protecting yourself from STDs and getting tested regularly is an important part of caring for you health."

STDs can cause permanent damage if they aren't treated, even if you aren't experiencing symptoms.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea, both of which have increased since 2011, can be effectively treated with pills or a shot.

For those diseases that can't be cured, like HIV or herpes, medicine can minimize symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the disease to others, according to the county Public Health Department.

Low-cost STD testing, treatment and education is available through the county.

  • Walk in without an appointment 9:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays or 2:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Health Agency Campus at 2180 Johnson Ave. in San Luis Obispo.
  • To schedule an appointment at clinics in Morro Bay, Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo call 805-781-5500.

If you have a sexual partner who is unable or unlikely to go to a doctor or a clinic, the county offers a program that makes it possible for you to give medicine to your partner to treat the STD.

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Correction: This article was updated to include corrected data and statements from Ann McDowell. An earlier version of this story contained incorrect data provided by the county Public Health Department. There were 778 cases of chlamydia and 51 cases of gonorrhea in 2011.

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930; @MonicaLVaughan
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