Stockton ranks second in California for syphilis STD

Kalani Williams, Staff Writer

San Joaquin County ranks second in the state, after San Francisco, for syphilis rates. Syphilis, an STD caused by a bacterial infection known as Treponema pallidum, is a spirochaete bacterium with subspecies that cause the diseases syphilis, bejel, and yaws.
People may not know that they have syphilis since it looks like other diseases, earning it the name “the great pretender.”
“All I know is that you get sores from it and it’s an STD,” junior Mia Marquez said.
Stockton residents had more syphilis cases last year than the past 20 years combined according to the San Joaquin County Public Health Services. Last year alone 381 cases were reported, a 40 percent increase since 2016.
“A lot of factors have contributed to the increase of syphilis,” Dr. Kismet Baldwin from San Joaquin Health Services said.
According to Baldwin, those factors include people not getting regular checkups, the availability of sexual partners, decreased condom use, lack of health care, drug use and misunderstanding.
Syphilis symptoms vary with the stages. If not treated, the disease can progress and possibly be fatal.
Stage one, known as primary syphilis results in a painless red sore (chancre) that will heal but is filled with highly contagious bacteria. Stage two, secondary syphilis, consists of flu-like symptoms and contagious sores all over the hands, feet and mouth. Stage three, the tertiary stage, leads to damage of the brain, liver and heart. At this stage, paralysis and death are most likely, according to
¨We are talking to doctors, getting information out to residents, outreaching to the homeless population and talking to sexual partners of those with syphilis,¨ Baldwin said in reference to what efforts the county is taking to help curb the STD.
Coming in contact with someone who has syphilis is not the only way people can contract the infection. Congenital syphilis is a life-threatening infection seen in infants, who can contract syphilis from an infected parent.
Congenital syphilis is becoming a major health concern in the United States with an increase of 27.5 percent in the last year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017 alone, more babies were born with this form of syphilis than there had been since 1995.
This type of syphilis is more likely to occur among babies of African American and Hispanic mothers.
“The U.S continues to have the highest STD rates in the industrialized world… and it preys on the most vulnerable among us,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD directors, said during a press conference.
Although STDs have reached an all-time high, programs to help prevent them are on a financial decline.
“The root of the problem is that federal funding to prevent and control sexually transmitted diseases had dropped by roughly 40 percent in the past 15 years, which has choked off state and local programs,” Harvey added in a press conference.
In San Joaquin you can be tested at San Joaquin County Public Health Services located at 1601 East Hazelton Ave.| Stockton, CA 95205. You can also contact them at (209)-468-3820. This clinic is open for testing Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm and is free of charge.

Who is most at risk for STDs? According to Mayo Clinic Patient care and health information:
– Those who engage in unprotected sex
– Have sex with multiple partners
– Is a man who has sex with a man
– Is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

-Those who are also at risk of an STD are the homeless.

The homeless are at risk because youth are “more likely to engage in high risk behaviors including inconsistent condom use, multiple sex partners, survival sex, and alcohol/drug use, putting at increased STD risk,” according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Ways you could prevent STDs according to WebMD Medical Reference are:
– Use latex condoms
– Avoid sharing towels and under clothing
– Wash before and after intercource
– Get a vaccination for Hepatitis B
– Get tested for HIV
– If you have a drug issue or alcohol problem, get help
– Consider not having sex (only sure way to prevent STDs)

What you should do if you see signs of an STD:
– Avoid sex so until you know for sure you are clear of an STD
– See your doctor for testing
– Don’t have sex until your Doctor says it’s okay to have sex