Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's behind rise in STDs in Franklin County?

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 2/26/2014

A local rise in sexually transmitted diseases could be linked to two factors, Midge Ransom said.

Numerous sexual partners and lack of protection tend to be the two main causes of STDs, Ransom, Franklin County health department director, said Monday. Though the county hasn’t seen a number of recurring cases of STDs, Ransom said, the trend definitely is toward an increase.

“In general, 50 percent of STD cases are among individuals younger than 25,” she said. “We certainly are seeing increases nationally and locally in older age groups, as well as people who have more sexual partners, which puts them at greater risk.”

The most commonly acquired STDs are herpes, chlamydia and human papillomavirus (HPV), with gonorrhea as a close fourth, Ransom said.

There is no vaccine to cure or prevent herpes and no vaccine to prevent chlamydia, she said, but there are vaccines to prevent HPV in young women and men.

“There is a vaccine. Gardasil and Cervarix are for the prevention of HPV for young women and men and it’s recommended for men and girls,” she said. “The most important thing is they need to be tested so it can be identified and treated.”

Women younger than 26 who do their annual exams at the Franklin County Health Department have the STD test as part of their exam, Ransom said, but that might not be the case for other doctors in the county.

A lack of health insurance also might be adding to the increase in STD cases, she said, since many STDs don’t have physical symptoms.

“People who don’t have insurance coverage, they’re less apt to get preventative testing done because they’re less apt to go to the doctors unless it becomes a serious disease like pelvic inflammatory disease and they go to the hospital,” she said. “A lot of young people don’t have symptoms and they’re healthy in every other way so they don’t see the need to go for a medical exam.”

Though preventative vaccines aren’t available for all STDs, Ransom said, there are other ways to prevent their spread.

“Have a monogamous relationship, or abstain, that’s the best way to prevent,” she said. “No. 2 would be to use protection, but that only goes so far as well. And No. 3, if you are sexually active and have not been in a long-term monogamous relationship, testing is critical. It’s not uncommon to find someone who trusted their partner and found out their partner had betrayed their trust a little.”

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