Sexually transmitted diseases have reached record levels for the fourth consecutive year in Colorado, and La Plata County is not immune to the trend.
La Plata County ranked high among Colorado counties for its rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea, according to new 2017 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data, released in December.
It ranked 11th for chlamydia, the most common STD in Colorado, and 18th for gonorrhea, the data showed.
Sexually transmitted diseases can cause infertility among men and women and abdominal pain. Syphilis is particularly serious because it can be passed from mother to infant, and it can be fatal for infants in some cases, said Dr. Dan Shodell, deputy director of disease control at the state health department.
Untreated sexual diseases can also increase the risk of getting HIV, said Ashley Gonzalez, clinic manager for San Juan Basin Public Health.
“It is of great concern that we are seeing this increase,” Shodell said.
There is no clear explanation for the rise in STDs locally or the similar national trend, Shodell said. The rise is not happening among a particular race or age group.
However, public health officials are concerned several factors are contributing, such as unsafe sexual practices, residents not getting screened for sexual diseases and residents not receiving adequate treatment, he said. The treatment for sexually transmitted diseases is fairly straightforward, but clinicians need to be up-to-date on the current medications, he said.
The spread of disease may also show a need for increased funding for public health, which decreased about 25 percent from 2007 to 2017 in Colorado, he said.
As more STDs circulate, it can have an accelerating effect on the spread of the diseases, he said.
Across Colorado there were more than 36,000 cases of chlamydia in 2017, according to the state.
In La Plata County, the rate of chlamydia was 485.4 cases per 100,000, making it 11th in the state. In 2016, La Plata County ranked 18th for chlamydia with 362 cases per 100,000.
Montezuma County ranked 10th for its chlamydia rate with about 510 cases per 100,000. Denver County ranked No. 1 for chlamydia cases with 981.5 cases per 100,000.
Gonorrhea is less widespread than chlamydia with about 27,000 cases in 2017 in Colorado.
La Plata County ranked 18th for gonorrhea, with about 80 cases per 100,000. Montezuma County ranked third for gonorrhea with 230 cases per 100,000. La Plata County had 45 cases of gonorrhea and Montezuma County had 60.
Public health officials are working to raise awareness about the disease, and one of the new efforts include purchasing banner ads on dating apps, Shodell said.
Residents can protect themselves from sexually transmitted disease by using condoms, getting tested and asking sexual partners to get tested before having sex, Gonzalez said.
Residents can receive free or low-cost tests through the Sexual Health Clinic at San Juan Basin Public Health. The clinic can also offer free medication to patients who test positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
For more information, call 335-2003.