New report shows Minnesota STDs climbed to a new high in 2011
Health officials call for more screening and public awareness of need for prevention
A new report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows that the number of reportable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Minnesota climbed to a new high of 19,547 in 2011. The continued rise in STDs prompted health officials to encourage sexually active people to practice prevention and get tested regularly.
Reportable STDs in Minnesota include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. There were 18,009 cases reported in 2010 and 16,912 cases reported in 2009.
Highlights within the report include:
• Chlamydia is the number one reported infectious disease in the state and reached a record level of 16,898 cases statewide with nearly one in three cases occurring in the Greater Minnesota areas. The majority of cases occurred in teens and young adults’ ages 15 to 24. African American infection rates were 10 times higher when compared to the rates among whites, followed by American Indians (4 times higher), Latinos (3 times higher) and Asians (2 times higher).
• Syphilis cases increased slightly with 366 cases (all stages) in 2011 compared to 350 cases reported in 2010. 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 57 percent.
• Gonorrhea remains the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 2,283 cases reported in 2011 representing a 6 percent increase compared to 2010. Nearly two-thirds of all gonorrhea cases occur among the 15 to 24 year old age group and cases are concentrated in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. African American infection rates were 26 times higher when compared to the rates among whites, followed by American Indians (6 times higher) and Latinos (3 times higher).
“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.”
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 most important message about these particular STDs is that they are all preventable,” said Peter Carr, manager of the STD and HIV Section at MDH. “Consistent and correct condom use during sex can virtually stop these diseases from spreading.”
Persons can prevent getting or spreading STDs by delaying the start of sexual activity, limiting the number of sexual partners, practicing safer sex at all times, and by not sharing needles for drug use, piercing or tattooing.
“Testing and diagnosing these diseases in their early stages is another way to help stop their spread and to prevent long term health consequences,” said Carr. “The only problem is that most STDs don’t show symptoms until it’s too late. The key is to get tested regularly if sexually active.”
Health officials emphasized that getting tested for STDs each year is very important for sexually active persons - even without symptoms. Health providers should ask their patients about their sexual risks and provide the necessary screenings per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“It is equally important that the partners of STD infected patients get tested and treated at the same time to prevent re-infection,” said Carr. “Health providers are responsible for making reasonable attempts to assure treatment of sex partners. Expedited partner therapy or EPT can be another strategy for providers to treat partners.”
In Minnesota, EPT is legal and allows physicians to dispense prescriptions or medications through their patients who have tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea to treat the patient’s sexual partners who are uninsured, unwilling or unable to get to a clinic. Health officials noted that an MDH survey reported last year found that only 58 percent of respondents currently use EPT as standard practice, when appropriate.
To learn more about STD statistics, prevention, testing and treatment, resources are available:
• The complete Minnesota STD Surveillance Report – 2011, 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. Partner referral cards are available to clinics from the MDH to help clients notify their partners anonymously.
• 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 web site at http://sexualhealthmn.org/.