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STD spike: Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea rates rising in Escambia County

STD spike: Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea rates rising in Escambia County

According to the Florida Department of Health, sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise.

Over the last four years in Escambia County, syphilis rates are up 7 percent, chlamydia is up about 26 percent and gonorrhea is up 38 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea has become resistant to all antibiotics except one. To fight the bacterial infection, Patty Dwiggins with the Florida Department of Health says doctors now recommend dual treatment: a Rocephin injection paired with an oral antibiotic.

"It has shown to be more effective and to help that resistance, prevent that resistance," said Dwiggins.

Despite a nationwide decrease in the number of HIV cases last year, Dwiggins says Escambia County saw a spike there, too. In 2017, the Florida Department of Health reports there were 65 new cases of HIV.

"Many of these new cases are being identified in the age group between 20 and 34 years old."

Dwiggins says the numbers are not unusual, because they have been testing a lot more people.

"We suspect that with more testing, you're going to see more numbers," said Dwiggins. "Hopefully, over time we'll see that level out and hopefully continue to go down at that point."

Social media and dating apps could be a contributing factor says Dwiggins, especially when it comes to tracking down sexual partners.

"No matter how willing you are to assist us in offering testing or treatment to someone, if you're not capable of giving us information, that does affect our success at being able to find that person if you don't even have a name - a full name, or even a correct name," said Dwiggins.

To combat the growing STD statistics, 'test and treatment' programs, after-hours clinics and public service announcements are increasing in the area too. Outreach programs targeting teens and pre-teens are also on the rise.

"It's always better to reach out to that student before they consider or even think about being sexually active," said Dwiggins. "And hopefully the younger you start, the more likely you are to accomplish that goal."

For more information about sexually transmitted diseases, testing centers and outreach programs, contact the Florida Department of Health.

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