Highest Number Of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Reported In A Single Year

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Sexually transmitted diseases in Minnesota

New data released by the Minnesota Department of Health show that 16,428 cases of sexually transmitted diseases, a record number, were reported in Minnesota in 2006.

Reportable STDs in Minnesota include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

"This represents an ongoing epidemic and trend in our state," said Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV Section at MDH. "STD cases are seen mostly among Minnesota teens and young adults, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea."

Health officials noted that among the 12,935-chlamydia cases, nearly 70 percent occurred in teens and young adults. Rates remain elevated among communities of color and nearly one out of three chlamydia cases occurred in Greater Minnesota. The greatest increases for chlamydia, compared to 2005 data, have been in St. Paul with an 11 percent increase and the suburbs with a nine percent increase.

Although there was a slight drop in gonorrhea cases in 2006 compared to 2005, this still remains the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 3,303 cases reported in 2006. The state has averaged around 3,200 reported cases of gonorrhea in each of the last five years.

"Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to some serious health consequences for both men and women," said Carr. "Furthermore, these diseases hit many of our young people during their reproductive years, leading to infertility."

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Around 40 percent of women with untreated chlamydia develop pelvic inflammatory disease, and 20 percent of those become infertile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chlamydia-infected patients are also three to five times more likely to acquire HIV if exposed.

Like chlamydia, untreated gonorrhea can also lead to infertility in both men and women. Gonorrhea can spread to organs and joints and these conditions can be life threatening. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be passed to newborns during childbirth causing blindness if the infant is not treated.

Early syphilis cases remain concentrated in the Twin Cities area with 80 out of the 104 total cases occurring among gay and bisexual men in 2006. Three out of four early syphilis cases occurred in persons aged 25 to 44 years. Untreated syphilis can lead to some of the most serious health consequences such as blindness, mental illness, dementia and death. There is a two- to five-fold increased risk of getting HIV infection when syphilis is present.

"Although these STDs can be cured with antibiotics, one reason that these STDs are so widespread is that many people do not have any symptoms when infected," said Carr. "For example, three out of four women and one out of two men initially do not have any symptoms when infected with chlamydia. The only way to know if you are infected is to get tested."

Health officials point out that if you have more than one sexual partner, a key strategy is to get tested for STDs each year even if you don't have symptoms. One of the best ways to avoid becoming infected in the first place is to always use a latex condom.

"Another reason STDs are persisting in our state is that the sexual partners of the infected persons are not being notified about the need to be tested and treated," said Carr. "People can get infected again and again after treatment if their partners aren't treated. Untreated partners remain reservoirs for future infections."

To help reach sexual partners of STD infected patients, the MDH Partner Services Program provides follow-up to people with HIV, syphilis and antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea and their sexual partners who may need examination and treatment. MDH will be supplying clinics with partner referral cards as well.

To help reduce STDs in Minnesota, MDH will launch a statewide STD awareness campaign during National STD Awareness Month in April. In addition, a syphilis elimination coordinator has been hired at MDH and a contract has been awarded to the Red Door Clinic to oversee the state's syphilis elimination efforts. MDH continues to support chlamydia and gonorrhea screening clinics serving areas with the highest rates of infection.

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