The Disease Control and Epidemiology unit monitors the rates of reportable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These include gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. In addition, Hepatitis B, AIDS, and other reportable infections that are sexually transmissible are counted. The rates of these infections are measured in order to evaluate the health of the community and to determine how to direct screening and education approaches against these diseases. In some instances, specially trained staff confidentially notify contacts of persons with STDs in order to recommend testing and treatment.
What Are STDs?
STDs are infections that spread through intimate heterosexual or homosexual contact. Anyone who has sexual contact with others who are infected can get a STD.
Can STDs Be Cured?
Depending on the type of STD, treatment is available. Many can be cured. In some cases, the infection can be controlled but not cured. It is essential to treat all infected or exposed sex partners before resuming sexual relations. Otherwise, the cycle of infection will continue.
Why Is It Important to Know About STDs?
STDs can have serious consequences, including infertility, adverse effects on unborn children, and even death. An increased risk of cervical cancer has been linked with at least one type of STD. It is important to diagnose and treat STDs, both to preserve the health of the individual and to prevent the spread of the disease to others.
How Many STDs Are There?
There are many STDs, though certain ones are better known because they are either common, serious or both. The most well known STDs include syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes genitalis. Other STDs include trichomonas infection, genital warts, pubic lice ("crabs"), lymphogranuloma venereum, chancroid, and granuloma inguinale.
STDs include infections that are not strictly transmitted by sexual means but can be spread in other ways, including sharing needles, fecal contamination, and skin-to-skin contact. An important example is HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS). Other examples of infections that can be transmitted to varying degrees through sexual contact are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, amebiasis, cytomegalovirus, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and scabies.
Which STDs Must Be Reported to the Health Department?
California State law requires many communicable diseases to be reported to the local health department (Reportable Diseases and Conditions). Among them are the following STDs:
- Syphilis (infections, latent (early & late), late stages & congenital)
- Viral Hepatitis (A,B and C)
Which STDs Are Not Reported to the Health Department?
The following infections can result from intimate or sexual contact with an infected person. Health professionals are not required to report these cases to the local health department:
- Herpes genitalis
- Trichomonas infection
- Genital warts
- Pubic lice ("crabs")
- Granuloma inguinale
Is Reporting of STDs Confidential?
Yes. All reports are handled as highly confidential.
What Type of Assistance Is Available for Partner Notification?
Persons who are diagnosed with a STD are encouraged to notify their partners and refer them for evaluation and treatment. This is often easier said than done. However, the person with the infection is the only one who is truly knowledgeable about who has been exposed.
The Disease Control and Epidemiology unit of the County Health Department, in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health STD Branch routinely carries out partner notification in cases of syphilis and gonorrhea. There are efforts to locate and offer evaluation and treatment of persons with other STIs, depending upon the circumstances.
Special laws apply to notification of contacts of persons with HIV infection and AIDS. For more information, please contact the State Office of AIDS at (916) 445-0553.
Physicians may seek the assistance of the public health officer in notification of their patients' contacts, if patient education alone fails to prevent the patient from placing others at risk.
Is Assistance Available for Notification of Sex Partners Who Have Been Exposed to HIV?
The local health department will assist physicians who request help in notifying contacts of their patients with HIV/AIDS who are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. If you would like more information, please call (916) 227-0445.
Is Partner Notification Handled Confidentially?
Yes. Notification of contacts is done in a way that makes every effort to protect the identity of the person who was diagnosed with the STD.