Why health officials say STDs are rising dramatically in Jackson County

MEDFORD, Ore. — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20 million new infections occur every year in the United States.

“If we go back ten years, we had no cases of syphilis in Jackson County and last year, we had almost 80,” said Dr. Jim Shanes, Jackson County Public Health.

Public health officials say there’s been a tremendous increase in people contracting STD’s in Jackson County and across the country.

“These are serious infections, syphilis can infect any organ in the body,” said Dr. Shames.

In 2018, Dr. Shames say they’ve seen the highest number of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cases.

From 2017 to 2018, syphilis has increased 94 percent with 36 new cases. Gonorrhea cases have also increased by 716 percent since 2012.

And he says there are many reasons why.

“The fact that we’ve been so successful in treating HIV I think has gotten some people to back off, who are high-risk individuals, from using condoms,” said Dr. Shames.

He says people using alcohol, methamphetamine, or other substances also tend to have lower inhibitions, which could then make them less likely to use safe sex practices.

But he says new technology is contributing to the rise as well.

“We have dating apps. that makes it very easy to have casual sex,” Dr. Shames said.

He says it’s not just the accessibility of finding potential partners through dating or hook-up apps. but because those people may not know each other, they won’t know the person’s sexual history.

“I mean there’s a vetting process in dating where you kind of get a sense of who you’re about to become intimate with,” he said.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

Public health officials say you can lower your risk of contracting STDs by wearing condoms, being in a monogamous relationship, or refraining from sex altogether.

But if you are sexually active, they say you should get tested.

“Especially with chlamydia and gonorrhea is not everyone has symptoms so, if people don’t have symptoms there’s not the cue of something’s wrong with me [and] I need to go get checked out,” said Tanya Phillips, Jackson County Public Health.

They say many STDs are not only preventable but can be cured with the right treatment. All it takes being educated and, if necessary, being proactive.

“I think it’s not uncommon to have someone say, you know, I’m available now and I want to date again… and I want to make sure I don’t have anything,” said Dr. Shames.

Jackson County Public Health offers confidential STD testing and treatment. You can also visit your nearest Planned Parenthood or health clinic for more information.

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