Updated: 5:25 p.m. | Posted: 10:33 a.m.
Minnesota health officials say sexually transmitted disease cases in the state rose to a record level in 2017. Overall the number of cases in Minnesota jumped 8 percent last year.
"There were an all-time high of almost 31,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2017," said Krissie Guerard, who oversees the Minnesota Department of Health's STD prevention efforts.
Gonorrhea transmissions rose 28 percent; chlamydia infections 4 percent.
Guerard said in many cases STDs have no symptoms, underscoring the need for annual testing. Left untreated, some STDs can lead to much more serious health problems.
She said many health insurance plans pay for the testing. It's also available at low cost from numerous community-based clinics around the state. Health officials said people of color, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs have higher rates of STDs, HIV and Hepatitis C than the broader population.
"If you are at high risk for HIV, STDs or Hepatitis C, we do recommend that you get tested at least annually. If you're at higher risk it should probably be done more frequently, and that would be something that you can talk with either your physician or one of our community agencies that do the testing on-site," Guerard said.
The county's Public Health Director, Ann Barry, said the increase in STD cases could stem from significantly more aggressive efforts to find and treat people who've been infected.
She added risky sexual behavior could be on the rise.
"There are ebbs and flows in our messages and I don't know that talking about sexually transmitted diseases is what we're doing right now," Barry said.
Health department officials are doing everything they can to try to turn the numbers around, Guerard said.
"So we are very concerned which has actually moved us into much of a heightened awareness so we are doing extra training both at the clinical level and at the community level," she said. "We are increasing our testing efforts. All of that in order to find all those people that are positive so we can stop spreading the disease."