Montgomery County Health Officials are calling the rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections among teens and young adults a “public health crisis.”
Officials report that there has been a marked increase in the incidence of sexually transmitted infections, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea, among adolescents and young adults between ages 15 to 29 in Montgomery County. Health officials are recommending a comprehensive strategy that includes prevention, screening and treatment recommendations aimed at this group.
Data from 2017 shows chlamydia cases rose by eight percent and gonorrhea cases rose by 13 percent from 2016. The data shows the highest levels in Montgomery County in 10 years for both STIs. These increases are consistent with national trends compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“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,” said Dr. Travis Gayles, County health officer.
In 2017, there were 4,029 cases of chlamydia, 66.7 percent of which were female cases. Data from 2017 shows a 17.5 percent increase in overall chlamydia cases in Montgomery County, compared to a nine percent increase in Maryland. Data from 2017 shows there were 726 cases of gonorrhea, 69.8 percent of which were male cases. Data for 2017 shows a 29 percent increase in gonorrhea cases in Montgomery County, compared to a 15 percent increase in Maryland. In 2017, there were 50 cases of primary and secondary syphilis, a 51.5 percent increase from 2016, and 144 cases of early syphilis, an 84.6 percent increase from 2016.
County officials will implement a strategic plan that includes a variety of interventions aimed at adolescents and young adults, including:
• Make contraception, such as condoms, available at high school wellness centers, at locations throughout the county and at Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) clinics;
• Increase access to STI screening throughout the community;
• Educate community providers on STI screening guidelines and recent disease trends;
• Increase access to treatment, including partner therapy, and link to providers for follow-up care;
• Increase awareness and education on disease trends, including the use of peer educators;
• Enhance disease surveillance and investigation to monitor disease trends.
Untreated STIs can lead to serious long-term health consequences, especially for adolescent girls and young women. The CDC estimates that undiagnosed and untreated STIs cause at least 24,000 women in the United States each year to become infertile.
For fact sheets about sexually transmitted infections, visit www.cdc.gov/sexualhealth and click on “Tools and Materials.” For information about testing for STIs, visit the STI program website.