STD reports rise in St. Louis CountyThe number of cases of chlamydia reported in St. Louis County grew at twice the state’s rate over the past two years, according to state data released Thursday.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
The number of cases of chlamydia reported in St. Louis County grew at twice the state’s rate over the past two years, according to state data released Thursday.
That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the sexually transmitted disease has actually increased that much.
“A real possibility is that the health-care providers are doing a better job of screening for chlamydia,” said Peter Carr, manager of the STD and HIV Section at the Minnesota Department of Health. “The more you look for it, the more you find. About 75 percent of the women with chlamydia have no symptoms. That is the reason we recommended that sexually active young women be screened for chlamydia once a year.”
Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to tubal pregnancies and infertility in both men and women, and makes it easier to transmit or acquire HIV — the virus that causes AIDS. The majority of Minnesota’s chlamydia cases occur in people 15 to 24 years old, with infection rates higher among people of color.
Health officials say that practicing safe sex and being screened for STDs are important to reducing the spread of the diseases. It’s a message that has to be delivered to each group of young people becoming sexually active, they say.
“The people who are now in their 30s have been active long enough and probably have gotten the message that they are probably taking the right steps,” said Dr. Timothy Burke, health-care epidemiologist for Essentia Health’s east region. “But the younger people who are just becoming sexually active maybe haven’t gotten that message yet, or have less access to condoms or testing.”
Numbers indicate that more area women are being tested for chlamydia. About 20 years ago, SMDC screened about 2,000 women a year for chlamydia. Last year it screened about 8,000.
“The public health messages seem to be getting to the primary-care providers and to the patient population,” Burke said.
Still, there was a record 19,547 sexually transmitted disease cases reported in Minnesota last year. Chlamydia led the way with its own record of 16,009 reported cases, according to MDH numbers released Thursday.
St. Louis County had 627 reported cases of chlamydia last year, for a rate of 313 cases per 100,000 residents — the fifth-highest rate in the state. Ramsey County had the highest rate: 537 cases per 100,000 residents.
The number and rate of chlamydia cases reported in St. Louis County increased 32 percent in just two years — nearly double the statewide increase of about 17 percent.
Gonorrhea remains the second-most-commonly reported STD in Minnesota, with 2,283 cases reported in 2011, an increase after two years of declines. There were 3,054 cases in 2008, 2,328 in 2009 and 2,149 in 2010. In St. Louis County there were 49 cases of gonorrhea reported last year, 97 cases in 2008, 47 in 2009 and 34 in 2010.
Like chlamydia, the majority of gonorrhea cases occur among the 15- to 24-year-old age group, with people of color suffering infection rates higher than those of whites.
Like chlamydia, untreated gonorrhea can lead to infertility. Untreated gonorrhea also can spread to organs, creating life-threatening conditions.
Syphilis cases also increased last year, to 366 from 350 cases in 2010 and 215 in 2009. The bulk of the cases were in the Twin Cities area. Untreated syphilis can cause blindness, mental illness, dementia and death.
“STDs remain a serious health threat if not detected and treated early,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger. “It’s important to let people know how serious these diseases can be and how they can be prevented.”