The total number of reportable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Minnesota increased in 2012, according to the latest report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The 10 percent rise in STDs from the previous year means sexually active people should get tested regularly and take steps to prevent STDs, health officials said.
Reportable STDs in Minnesota include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. There were 21,465 cases reported in 2012 compared to 19,547 cases reported in 2011 and 18,009 cases reported in 2010.
Highlights within the report include:
- Chlamydia is the number one reported infectious disease in the state and reached a new high of 18,048 cases in 2012 compared to 16,898 cases in 2011, a 7 percent increase. The majority of cases occurred in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Nearly one in three cases occurred in the Greater Minnesota areas.
- Gonorrhea remains the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 3,082 cases reported in 2012 compared to 2,283 cases reported in 2011, a 35 percent increase. Nearly two-thirds of all gonorrhea cases occurred among the 15- to 24-year-old age group and more than 80 percent of the cases occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
- Syphilis cases dropped 8 percent with 335 cases (all stages) in 2012 compared to 366 cases reported in 2011. New infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM). The percentage of MSM co-infected with syphilis and HIV was 59 percent.
“Gonorrhea had the largest increase last year,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “Our epidemiologists and disease control specialists are currently investigating the data and we will develop a response plan in the next few months to work with our community partners and health care and public health providers.”
The MDH report also shows higher infection rates for chlamydia and gonorrhea among communities of color and American Indians when compared to whites.
“These disparities exist among populations that have the fewest opportunities to access STD prevention programs and regular testing,” said Ehlinger. “Untreated STDs can have serious health consequences and we need to increase our efforts in partnership with our most impacted communities and ensure that these services are available and being used.”
Health officials noted that untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to infertility in women and men and can be passed from an infected woman to her newborn children, causing premature delivery, infant pneumonia and blindness. Untreated syphilis can cause blindness, mental illness, dementia and death. Untreated gonorrhea can spread to organs and joints leading to life-threatening conditions.
“The encouraging news within the report shows that we had a drop in syphilis cases,” said Ehlinger. “This could be a result of investing in community-based agencies such as the Hennepin County Public Health Clinic and the Stop Syph MN Campaign.”
Testing, diagnosing and treating these diseases in their early stages are key ways to prevent long term health consequences and to help stop their spread. “Since most STDs don’t show symptoms, it’s important to get tested regularly if you’re sexually active,” said Ehlinger.
Health officials emphasized that anyone sexually active can get an STD so getting tested each year, or when involved with a new partner, is very important – even without symptoms. Once treated, you can get infected again if re-exposed.
Health care providers should ask their patients about their sexual risks and provide the necessary STD screenings according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Persons can prevent getting or spreading STDs by abstaining from sexual contact, delaying the start of sexual activity, limiting the number of sexual partners, always using latex condoms during sex, and by not sharing needles for drug use, piercing or tattooing.
“Partners of STD infected patients also need to get tested and treated at the same time to prevent re-infection,” said Ehlinger. “Health care providers are responsible for making a reasonable attempt to assure treatment of sex partners. Expedited partner therapy or EPT can help providers treat the partners of their patients.”
EPT allows physicians to dispense prescriptions or medications through their patients who have tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea. The patient can give those prescriptions or medications to the patient’s sexual partners who are uninsured, unwilling or unable to get to a clinic.
Action steps and resources MDH provides for STD control, monitoring, prevention, testing and treatment include the following:
- The complete Minnesota STD Surveillance Report 2012; STD fact sheets; information about expedited partner therapy; National STD Awareness Month (April) campaign materials; and, a link to CDC’s STD treatment guidelines can be found on the MDH website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/std.
- The Minnesota Chlamydia Partnership (MCP), of which MDH is a member, has developed the first-ever action plan to reduce and prevent chlamydia in the state: http://www.health.state.mn.us/mcp.
- The MDH Partner Services Program provides follow-up services to people with HIV, syphilis, and those referred from clinics with untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea and their sexual partners who may need examination and treatment: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/dtopics/stds/partnerservices.html.
- MDH continues to support chlamydia and gonorrhea screening clinics serving areas with the highest rates of infection via the MN Infertility Prevention Project: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/chlamydia/mcp/strategy/Section6AddressingChlamydiainUSandMN.pdf.
For confidential information about the prevention, testing locations and treatment of STDs, call the Minnesota Family Planning & STD Hotline, toll free, at 1-800-78-FACTS (voice or TTY), 651-645-9360 (Metro area), or visit their website at: http://sexualhealthmn.org/. -MDH-