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STDs most prevalent infectious diseases in Salt Lake County, call for better education

Gonorrhea bacterium (Photo: illustration CDC)
Gonorrhea bacterium (Photo: illustration CDC)
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Two STDs top the list for the most common diseases in Salt Lake County and the health department says the current approach to sex education is not working.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea — the two two reported diseases — are more common than the flu (influenza,) hepatitis C and tuberculosis.

"As with adults, sexually transmitted diseases are among the most prevalent infections in our youth 15–17 years old," Gary Edwards, Salt Lake County Heath Department executive director said.

This is alarming, and an indicator that our current approach to sexually transmitted disease education is not working. Teens need accurate, realistic, and comprehensive STD education.

Edwards said that education could be at home, school, church or another appropriate setting.

The county health department released its "Infections Diseases Morbity Report 2018" that provides demographic data for the most commonly reported infectious diseases affecting Salt Lake County residents. The full report is at the end of this story but the top five are:

  1. Chlamydia
  2. Gonorrhea
  3. Hepatitis C (chronic infection)
  4. Influenza (hospitalized cases)
  5. Tuberculosis (latent infection)

The county believes rates are higher because, according to a press release, all infections are reported to the health department, though it is supposed to be. It said it is very like number of cases reported for each disease is less than the actual number of cases circulating in the county.

"Youth who are sexually active should receive regular STD testing,” continued Edwards. “Many people who are infected with an STD do not have symptoms, and untreated STDs can cause infertility in both men and women, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and birth defects."

Chlamydia shows 5,279 reported cases in Salt Lake County with over 85 percent of infections occurring in the 15 to 34 year old men and women. The most common co-infection was gonorrhea. Chlamydia is also the most commonly reported disease in the U.S.

Symptoms include vaginal or urethral discharge, frequent urination, painful urination, lower abdomen pain. Prolonged or frequent infection can result in infertility. It is spread by contact with an infected partner's body fluids. Suggested prevention includes the use of condoms, reducing the number of sexual partners and routine screening.

Gonorrhea reported 1,913 cases which disproportionately infected men. Its symptoms include unusual genital or rectal discharge, painful urination and pain during intercourse. Serious complications include disseminated infection, pelvic inflammatory disease or prostatis.

The county STD clinic provides testing and treatment to youth 14 and older, with or without parental permission. It tries to accommodate walk-in patients when possible but it prefers appointments made by phone at 385.468.4242. It is open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The health department said since the 2017 report, viral meningitis and Acinetobacter — a bacteria that causes a range of diseases including pneumonia and meningitis — have dropped off the top 20 list while cryptosporidiosis at 18, enters the top 20 for last year.

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