The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is getting worse in Minnesota, making up almost 70 percent of the reported communicable diseases in the state.

To say that the state has an STD crisis is an understatement. Between 2011 and 2015, Minnesota reported an increase of cases per 100,000 persons in all types of STDs except for primary/secondary syphilis, which has dipped slightly from 257 in 2014 to 246 in 2015, according to its 2015 Sexually Transmitted Disease Statistics report.

The most commonly diagnosed STD in the state is chlamydia, which accounts [PDF] for 21,238 cases or almost 80 percent of all cases in 2015. It's also a sharp increase from 2014 when only 19,897 have been reported, the highest so far over the last five years.

At least 32 percent of these people with chlamydia are found in the suburban area such as Ramsey, Scott, and Washington Counties followed by Greater Minnesota. Only 12 percent were in the state's capital, St. Paul.

At 39 percent, chlamydia was detected in people between the ages of 20 and 24, but they are more common among women with 5,745 cases in 2015. They were then followed by 15- to 19-year-olds at 24 percent.

These numbers are particularly worrisome for two reasons.

First, the condition, caused by a parasitic bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis, is often diagnosed among women in their child-bearing ages. Second, the generally common STD can have serious effects on female reproduction including the high risk of infertility, difficulty in getting pregnant, and ectopic pregnancy.

Although chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics, diagnosing it is a challenge since women often don't show symptoms like abnormal vaginal discharge, burning sensation during urination, and presence of blood in the urine.

"People don't know they have it, and I would say that's the biggest reason for it spreading so much," said HealthPartners medical director Dr. Andrew Zinkel.

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STD in the state with 4,097 cases in 2015, but the overall increase since 2014 remained the same at 77 percent. There's a minimal increase of syphilis cases, but 65 percent of the early cases can be attributed to male-to-male sex. Primary/secondary syphilis reached a whopping 300 percent among American Indians.

The state's health department is disappointed by the results and blames it on "eroding" public health services as their budget for STD prevention and treatment has been dwindling over the past decade.

"[This] not only hurts our ability to respond to intractable problems like STDs but also to emerging infectious diseases like Zika virus," said Edward Ehlinger, health commissioner. 

Photo: Kat Masback | Flickr

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