Rock County records rising rates of STDs

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BELOIT - High rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the Stateline Area are mirroring national trends.

Rock County's STD rates are on the rise, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia, said David Pluymers, assistant director of the Rock County Public Health Department. Winnebago County also recently saw a rise in cases of chlamydia, with a decrease in gonorrhea cases.

Rock County saw the fifth highest rate for chlamydia in the state, based on the 2018 County Health Rankings. Using data up to 2015, Rock County's rate was 455.4 newly diagnosed cases of Chlamydia per 100,000 people versus the Wisconsin state average of 423.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there were 842 reported cases of chlamydia and 232 cases of gonorrhea in Rock County in 2016. In 2015, there were 738 cases of chlamydia and 146 cases of gonorrhea reported.

"The key thing is that the highest rates of infection are among people 15-24 years old," Pluymers said. "About half of those newly infected with STDs are in this age range."

He notes there also are disproportionately higher STD rates for the African American and hispanic populations versus the white population.

Over the border in Winnebago County, Todd Kisner, director for the Center for Health Protection, said chlamydia is the most common condition reported in the county.

Winnebago County saw a 6 percent increase in chlamydia cases between 2016 and 2017. There were about 1,980 cases reported in 2017 and about 1,870 cases reported in 2016. There was a 7 percent decrease in cases of gonorrhea during that time, with 711 reported cases in 2016 to 659 cases in 2017.

Kisner adds there were 19 reported cases of syphilis in 2016 and 15 cases in 2017. In terms of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), there were 19 new infections in 2016 and 21 new infections in 2017.

Across the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed in 2017, with preliminary data from 2017 showing "steep, sustained increases." This surpassed the previous record set in 2016 by more than 200,000 cases and marked the fourth consecutive year of sharp increases in these STDs.

To combat these trends locally, Rock County stakeholders are in the process of forming an STD coalition.

"The coalition will examine the date, focus on interventions more effectively and work with community partners," Pluymers said.

The coalition is set to become active this fall.

Both of the local county health departments are encouraging residents to take preventative actions, such as wearing a condom and getting tested frequently. Kisner recommends everyone should get tested for STDs on an annual basis. For those who have multiple partners, he recommends getting tested more frequently.

"The whole premise of these numbers is we really need to step it up and protect ourselves and our partners from the further spread of these infections," Kisner said.

Both agencies shared the CDC's concern about the spread of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. The CDC is monitoring the nation for any cases of gonorrhea resistant to treatment. Though no cases of untreatable gonorrhea have been reported in the nation, Kisner said the threat is a call to action to prevent the spread of STDs.

"You can still have fun and protect yourself," Kisner said.

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