Salt Lake County sees spike in STD cases, especially gonorrhea

    Salt Lake County sees spike in STD cases, especially gonorrhea (Photo: Lisa Nico / KUTV)

    (KUTV) Salt Lake County health officials said there has been a sharp rise in sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in the transmission of gonorrhea.

    A spokesperson for the Salt Lake County Health Department, Nicholas Rupp, said the department tracks chlamydia, syphilis, HIV and gonorrhea. While reports of all four are increasing, gonorrhea has the sharpest rise.

    "Gonorrhea has always been kind of a litmus test to see where STDs are," said Rupp.

    More than 1,000 new cases of gonorrhea were reported last year. That's up 500 percent from 2010. Gonorrhea cases are up 40 percent from the last year, from 989 in 2014 to 1,028 in 2015.

    Historically, lower income and minority populations have seen a larger increase of STDs. But now, the health department is seeing an increase in white and middle-class populations, which indicates STDs are spreading into more of the general population.

    "We're seeing gonorrhea shift into a heterosexual population, particularly among women of color," said Rupp. "STDs have always been more prevalent among young people."

    He said cultural issues may play a role in the increase of STDs, particularly in the youth population.

    "We don't have comprehensive sexual education schools here in Utah and the studies show across the board that comprehensive quality sex education is really key in preventing STDs and teen pregnancy."

    Rupp also said dating apps are facilitating a "hookup culture," in which people can easily find multiple partners.

    "There are multiple partners right there at your fingertips," he said. "You can find more sexual partners more easily nowadays than you could ten years ago because the apps allow you to locate someone within so many miles of you who are looking for similar things as you."

    Some apps make it difficult to track down contact information for the user, which means notifying partners of STD exposure is becoming more difficult.

    Rupp said the outbreak is forcing the department to move funding from other areas in order to increase education for health care providers who may not have seen gonorrhea cases until recently, and to launch a media campaign on STD prevention and screening.

    "We've found a number of providers haven't diagnosed a gonorrhea case before [] so they might not know what it looks like."

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