ST. PAUL, Minn. - The numbers are trending the wrong way.
The Minnesota Department of Health released a new report Monday indicating that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high in Minnesota, with 25,986 cases diagnosed in 2015. That's a six percent jump from 2014, and a leap of 33 percent from just five years ago when 19,547 STD's were diagnosed.
The STDs health care providers are required to report include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
“This disturbingly high rate of growth in the number of STD cases shows the need for improved education about STDs among both the general public and healthcare providers,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “These rates also provide further evidence that eroding basic local public health services not only hurts our ability to respond to intractable problems like STDs, but also to emerging infectious diseases like Zika virus.”
Key findings of the report include:
- Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD and the No. 1 reported infectious disease in the state. It reached a new high of 21,238 cases in 2015 compared to 19,897 in 2014, a 7-percent increase. The majority of cases occurred in teens and young adults, ages 15 to 24. One out of every three cases occurred in Greater Minnesota and at least three cases were reported in every Minnesota County.
- Gonorrhea remains the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 4,097 cases reported in 2015 compared to 4,073 in 2014, a 1-percent increase. Forty-six percent of all gonorrhea cases occurred among 15- to 24-year-olds, and 77 percent of cases occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
- Syphilis cases increased to 654 in 2015 from 629 in 2014, a 4-percent increase. A new concern emerged with a 70-percent increase between 2014 and 2015 in syphilis cases among women. The increase occurred primarily among women of child-bearing age in all racial and ethnic groups, including pregnant women. New syphilis infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM). Three cases of pregnant women passing the infection to their babies (congenital syphilis) were reported in 2015. Seven cases of an uncommon form of the infection in the eye (ocular syphilis) were also reported.
The MDH report also shows higher infection rates for chlamydia and gonorrhea among communities of color and American Indians when compared to whites. Higher syphilis infection rates were seen among American Indian and African American women, and MSM of all races.
“Addressing disparities is a health department priority, particularly among those racial and ethnic groups with limited access to STD testing and prevention programs due to longstanding social, medical or income disadvantages,” Ehlinger said. “Expanding our partnerships within these communities will help to ensure that these services are available and culturally acceptable.”
The MN Department of Health says people can prevent getting or spreading STDs by abstaining from sexual contact, limiting the number of sexual partners, always using latex condoms the right way during sex and not sharing needles for drug use, piercing or tattooing. Partners of STD-infected patients should get tested based on their risk behaviors and be treated at the same time to prevent reinfection and spread to others.