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Rising Montana STD rates alarming public health officials

Posted at 9:35 PM, Aug 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 23:35:55-04

HELENA – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) continued to rise at an alarming rate last year in the U.S.

Nearly 2.3 million STD cases were diagnosed last year surpassing the previous record in 2016 by more than 200,000 cases. 

The new numbers from the CDC show chlamydia is common, but there is a concerning rise in cases of gonorrhea and syphilis. All three are curable with antibiotics however, gonorrhea is increasingly resistant to most drugs used to treat it.

Montana is one of the states where syphilis activity has grown exponentially over the past two years.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services DPHHS) reports that between 2014 and 2016, the state averaged about one reported case each month. On average, in 2017 and 2018 that rate has grown to about one case a week.

Health officials say the biggest people at risk are men who have sex with men. Women have been affected, which has created a concern because the disease can pose a serious risk for unborn children.

Health officials say dating and social media apps have helped the spread of the disease.

“We want the rates down again. Nationwide, we’re concerned about the number of rate of STDs in Montana and want to get the word out about testing. Work with our local health department on prevention activities so that we can reverse this trend,” said Helen Mccaffrey,  a state communicable disease epidemiologist.

Yellowstone County reported the most cases this year with 10, followed by Missoula with seven cases. Those two counties are the largest in Montana. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. However, some damage done by the disease is permanent, such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. 

Free help is offered by local health departments and family clinics. For more information, you can go here to find clinics and more.