Minn. Health Officials Alarmed By STD Surge

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Health officials were alarmed by a new report Wednesday that showed a surge in sexually transmitted disease rates in Minnesota, with chlamydia setting a new record last year and syphilis reaching a 30-year high.

Minnesota keeps track of incidents of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. The number of cases of those diseases rose to a new high of 17,760 in Minnesota in 2010 — 848 cases more than 2009 — according to an annual report from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Chlamydia reached a record 15,294 cases last year, a 6 percent increase, for the largest number the department has on record since it began tracking chlamydia in 1986. The disease disproportionately affects young adults ages 15 to 24. Although that group makes up only 14 percent of the state’s population, it accounts for about 70 percent of chlamydia cases, state health officials said.

“The biggest concerns we have with chlamydia are that it affects our younger age groups, often goes unnoticed and it can lead to serious and costly reproductive health consequences if not treated,” said Peter Carr, manager of the health department’s STD and HIV section.

Untreated chlamydia can lead to infertility in women and, in more serious cases, also in men. Three in four females and one in two males who have the disease have no symptoms.

Wednesday’s report also showed that the number of syphilis cases rose to a 30-year high of 347 in 2010, a 62 percent increase from 2009. Most of those cases involved men who had sex with men. Gay and bisexual men made up nearly 90 percent of syphilis cases in the state, the report said.

Syphilis also disproportionately affects African Americans, accounting for 23 percent of cases.

Untreated syphilis can lead to blindness, mental illness, dementia and death, so an early diagnosis is crucial.

“Testing and diagnosing the disease in its early stages is critical as that is when the disease is most infectious,” Carr said.

Last year, 221 early syphilis cases were diagnosed, compared with 117 in 2009. Of those, nearly 90 percent occurred among men who had sex with men, 66 percent of whom were white.

Although the number of gonorrhea cases decreased by 9 percent in 2010, it remains the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota. In 2010, 2,119 cases were reported. Overall, gonorrhea has decreased 36 percent in the past five years in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Health offers several educational programs aimed at preventing the spread of the diseases. The programs provide testing, counseling and treatment. Information also is available on the department’s website.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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