County Officials: Increase in Sexually Transmitted Infections a ‘Public Health Crisis’

More cases reported among adolescents and young adults, data shows

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Incidences of sexually transmitted diseases are growing in Montgomery County faster than the statewide average and particularly in young people, health officials said.

Newly released data from 2017 shows chlamydia cases in the county rose by 8 percent and gonorrhea cases rose by 13 percent from 2016.

In 2017, the county experienced the highest levels of both sexually transmitted infections in the past decade.

“This is a public health crisis and while this mirrors national trends, it is critical that we provide prevention information so that adolescents and young adults can make safe decisions,” Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, said in announcing the increased rates on Monday.

The increases are consistent with national trends compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

But the rates of increase in the county are higher than in other parts of the state, data shows.

In 2017, there were 4,029 cases of chlamydia—a 17.5 percent increase in the county, compared to a 9 percent increase in Maryland.

There were 726 cases of gonorrhea in the county last year, a 29 percent. Statewide, there was a 15 percent increase last year.

Less common, there were 50 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported in the county last year, a 51.5 percent increase from 2016. There were also 144 cases of early syphilis, an 84.6 percent increase from 2016.

Health officials said the increases are especially pronounced among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 29 in Montgomery County.

County officials said they will implement a strategic plan to aim interventions at people 29 or younger in the county. The plan includes:

Making contraception, such as condoms, available at high school wellness centers, clinics and other locations throughout the county;

  • Increasing access to sexually transmitted infection screenings;
  • Educating community providers on screening guidelines and recent disease trends;
  • Increasing access to treatment and follow-up care, including partner therapy;
  • Increasing awareness and education on disease trends; and
  • Enhancing disease surveillance and investigation to monitor trends.

Mary Anderson, a public information officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, said spreading information is critical because untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to long-term health consequences, including infertility.

The CDC estimates that undiagnosed and untreated sexually transmitted infections cause at least 24,000 women in the United States each year to become infertile.

Statewide, the city of Baltimore had the highest incidence rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2017, according to the data.

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