Minnesota saw significant increases last year in sexually transmitted disease cases, and state health officials are warning of a worsening trend among drug users, particularly those using heroin, prescription opiates and methamphetamine.
Minnesota saw a 30 percent increase in new syphilis cases and a 25 percent increase in new gonorrhea cases, while the number of new chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases combined in Minnesota increased by 10 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday.
While cases of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, remained stable at 290 cases in 2016 compared to 298 in 2015, communities of color and injection drug users had more new HIV infections than other groups, the department said in its annual report on sexually transmitted diseases.
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Rates of new hepatitis C infections also increased 38 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, and over half of the new cases reported injection drug use.
"This alarming rise in STDs and hepatitis C is of urgent concern," Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a statement, adding that "if funding for the prevention of infectious disease in Minnesota continues to be reduced as we have seen in recent years, we will not be able to put an end to these rising infection rates."
Among its findings, the department noted:
• Chlamydia is the state's No. 1 reported infectious disease and reached a new high of 22,675 cases in 2016 compared to 21,238 in 2015. Most occurred in teens and young adults, ages 15 to 24. Gonorrhea remained the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 5,104 cases reported in 2016 compared to 4,097 in 2015.
• Syphilis cases rose with 852 cases in 2016 compared to 653 in 2015. Officials are concerned about reports of syphilis cases among females of child-bearing age in all racial and ethnic groups, as well as pregnant women.
• HIV infection continues to rise among injection drug users with 27 cases reported in 2016 and 26 cases reported in 2015, compared to 16 cases in 2014 and 14 cases in 2013. While the majority of cases are still in the seven-county metro area, there was a 41 percent increase in new HIV infections in greater Minnesota with 52 cases in 2016.
Health officials reminded Minnesotans that sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and hepatitis C infections are all highly preventable and recommended sexually active people and injection drug users get tested at least once each year for STDs, HIV and hepatitis C.
"These diseases usually do not show physical symptoms immediately," said Kris Ehresmann, who directs infectious disease work at the state Health Department. "Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for the well-being of the patient as well as disease prevention."