Local July chlamydia figures up, annual cases down

Author: John
Time: 2011/8/26 17:30:08

While the pace of new chlamydia cases in Ross County is down so far this year, diagnoses made in July were up, raising some concern at the Ross County Health District.

In July, 21 cases were reported to the health district. The health district's director of public nursing health, Kathy Wakefield, said 21 cases in one month is a "pretty high number."

"Young women need to be especially aware of it and careful to either not get it or be sure to have it treated if they do," Wakefield said.

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Ross County and across the nation. Often it's referred to as the silent STD because of its mild symptoms or the lack of symptoms at all. For a woman who is planning to have children in the future, it can have a significant effect.

"Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria, and that bacteria can cause damage to a woman's reproductive organs before she even knows she has it," Wakefield said.

Long-term complications are rare for men with untreated chlamydia.

So far this year, 105 new cases have been diagnosed, an average of 15 each month, putting the county on pace to reach 180 cases. That number would be noteworthy, since it would be the lowest since 2007.

In 2008, there were 191 cases, 2009 saw 195, and last year there were 204. Ross County's rate is 268 cases per 100,000 people.

Rami Yoakum, the health district's director of communications, cautioned there's no guarantee this year will end with fewer reported cases. Fewer cases also doesn't necessarily mean fewer people have been infected, since the numbers only reflect infections that have been diagnosed and reported.

Yoakum acknowledged the amount of job loss in the down economy and accompanying loss of medical insurance could have some effect on the numbers if it translates to fewer people being tested. However, the district doesn't track the numbers of people being tested each year.

Chlamydia often can remain undetected in a person for some time, which also might influence the numbers.

"One of the challenges we face with chlamydia is that the symptoms are so mild that people -- male and female -- often don't realize that they have it, so it gets spread around," Wakefield said.

Condom use can help prevent the disease, but only if they are used for all forms of sex; chlamydia also can be spread through oral and anal sex.

"Chlamydia is easy to treat and typically responds to antibiotics," Wakefield said. "And the best way to avoid it is to abstain from sexual contact, or at the very least limit the number of sexual partners."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends yearly testing for sexually active women younger than 25, as well as for older women with risk factors such as multiple sex partners.