Journal Standard.com (Illinois) (04.20.13)
Illinois’ Stephenson County reported a chlamydia case increase for 2012. As a result, health experts and local physicians are recommending STD testing for county residents. The county recorded 194 chlamydia cases in 2012, compared to 179 in 2011.
Over the past five years, Illinois has experienced an STD increase, with the state ranking 10th for gonorrhea and 11th for chlamydia. In Illinois, approximately 66 percent of gonorrhea cases and 75 percent of chlamydia cases are in the 15–19 and 20–24 year-old age groups. Experts note that the rise is part of a state and national trend of increased STD rates. Richard Zimmerman, Illinois Department of Health’s STD program section chief, explained, “It’s basically a trend nationwide.” He noted that teenagers are especially susceptible to STDs and tend to be “risk takers.” He added that many school sex education classes do not provide students with enough safe-sex information.
In recent years Stephenson County’s STD rates have risen; however, the case numbers fluctuate from year to year. Gonorrhea, hepatitis C, and HIV infections decreased between 2011 and 2012; gonorrhea dropped from 51 cases to 38 cases, hepatitis C from 46 to 20, and HIV from three to one. Nonetheless, chlamydia and syphilis cases increased during that time period; chlamydia rose from 179 to 194 cases, and syphilis rose from five to nine cases. “It’s mainly chlamydia and gonorrhea that are the top ones in Stephenson County,” said county health administrator Craig Beintema. The county has experienced consistently high chlamydia rates since 2005; however, gonorrhea levels have fluctuated. Gonorrhea reached a high level in 2008 with 123 reported cases, but the rate has dropped since then.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable, and early detection can prevent other health problems or more serious infections. Dr. Robert Geller, infectious disease specialist at FHN, stated that the best way to protect oneself and others is to get tested, particularly since STDs often have no symptoms. The Freeport Health Department, located at 10 W. Linden St., offers STD testing. If a person tests positive, health officials contact the person’s sexual partners to recommend that they get tested. For more information, call 815-235-8271.