Local News

County, state see increase in sexually transmitted diseases

By From page A1 | July 04, 2014

The number of sexually transmitted diseases continues to increase in Yolo County, mirroring increases being seen statewide and across the country, according to data released by the state Department of Public Health this week.

Locally, officials have seen the chlamydia rate climb steadily between 2010 and 2013, from a rate of 272.3 cases per 100,000 residents three years ago to a rate of 337.5 in 2013 — still well below the statewide rate of 439.5.

Rates were highest in Yolo County for females ages 20 to 24 (241 cases in the county in 2013), followed by females ages 15 to 19 (116 cases).

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and is easily cured with antibiotics. However, the CDC reports, many infections go undetected because those infected often have no symptoms. Left untreated, chlamydia can put women at increased risk of chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

The CDC recommends that sexually active females under age 25 be tested for chlamydia every year.

Statewide, 168,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2013 and 38,000 cases of gonorrhea, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Gonorrhea on the rise

The gonorrhea rate had been stable in Yolo County for several years until it, too, began to increase in 2011. Since then, the rate has nearly tripled from 23.2 cases per 100,000 residents to 68.9. The statewide rate, meanwhile, increased from 73.1 to 100.4 over the same period.

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics but often produces no symptoms. Left untreated, it also can lead to ectopic pregnancies and infertility. Additionally, the CDC reports the number of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea is increasing.

Gonorrhea rates were highest among males ages 25 to 29 in Yolo County in 2012, followed by males ages 20 to 24, and rates were higher for males than females in every age group except those under the age of 19.

Six Yolo County girls between the ages of 10 and 14 and one under the age of 9 were diagnosed with gonorrhea in 2012, but no boys in those age ranges were, according to the state’s numbers.

Yolo County’s gonorrhea rate has continued to increase in 2014, county officials said, but the chlamydia rate appears to have leveled off this year.

The ongoing spread of sexually transmitted diseases remains a concern to health officials.

“Sexually transmitted diseases can cause major health problems for people over time,” Dr. Ron Chapman, the state’s health officer, said in a news release Tuesday. “This increase is concerning, particularly because STDs are preventable.”

People can reduce their risk by using condoms, reducing their number of sexual partners, being in a monogamous relationship or practicing abstinence, Chapman said.

“Any sexually active person can get an STD through unprotected sex,” he added.

The rates of all STDs combined continue to be highest among people ages 15 to 24 years of age, especially females, with more than 66 percent of female chlamydia cases and more than 54 percent of female gonorrhea cases statewide being in that age group. That group is also most vulnerable to infertility and other long-term reproductive health problems caused by STDs, Chapman said.

Racial disparities

Profound racial disparities persist as well, according to the state report.

In 2013, the statewide African-American gonorrhea rate of 351.1 per 100,000 was 6.2 times the non-Hispanic white rate of 56.9 per 100,000. Locally as well, African-American males in Yolo County had the highest rate of gonorrhea followed by white and Latino males. Similarly, African-Americans had the highest rate of chlamydia, followed by Latinos and Native Americans.

The state has been working to address health disparities in STDs, according to the Public Health Department, by identifying census tracts with high rates of infection and focusing interventions in those areas. These interventions include supporting comprehensive sex education, improving access to sexual health services and helping schools build supportive environments for all youths, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Additionally, the department trains medical providers on assessing patient risk for STDs, screening appropriately and using the most effective treatments, and works with local health jurisdictions to coordinate disease prevention and control efforts statewide, including helping identify infected individuals and assuring that they and their partners get treated.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are 20 million new STD infections every year in the United States, costing the American medical system $16 billion in health care costs. And while the consequences of untreated infections are often worse for young women, the CDC reports the annual number of new infections is roughly equal among young women and young men.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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