Health

Sexually transmitted diseases on rise in Iowa, new state data shows

2019 chlamydia, gonorrhea cases increased about 9 percent from year before

(Gazette File photo)
(Gazette File photo)

Cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea rose statewide last year, continuing the trend of increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases among Iowans that has been ongoing for nearly a decade.

New data released Monday by the Iowa Department of Public Health shows 16,046 cases of chlamydia in 2019, or a rate of 508 cases per 100,000 people, and 5,310 cases of gonorrhea, for a rate of 168 per 100,000 people.

Chlamydia cases increased by about 9.3 percent from 2018 and gonorrhea cases saw a 9.7 percent increase from the year before, according to IDPH data.

Since 2011 — the latest data available on the state’s Department of Public Health website — STD cases have been steadily increasing in the state.

In 2011, there were 10,928 cases of chlamydia statewide, a 46 percent difference from 2019.

There also were 1,966 cases of gonorrhea in 2011. That’s a 170 percent increase when compared to last year.

The increase could be attributed to a number of factors, including increased testing statewide.

However, George Walton, STD program manager for the Department of Public Health, said the data showed the positivity rate — those who have tested positive among all those who have been tested — for STD testing remained steady, and even increased in some areas. That indicates there’s increased transmission across the state, he said.

“If we just increased STD testing, the positivity would decrease, but it remained steady” in 2019, Walton said.

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Iowa’s rates follow a nationwide trend, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia has increased 19 percent between 2014 and 2018, and gonorrhea cases have risen 63 percent in that same time period.

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea — which are bacterial infections transmitted through sexual contact — can be cured in patients using the correct treatment. Department of Public Health officials also note that means patients can be reinfected with these STDs.

Chlamydia is the most common STI in Iowa, and the most common nationwide. According to the CDC, many individuals exhibit little to no symptoms, so they may be unaware they are transmitting it to others.

Walton said chlamydia tends to affect a younger age group, mostly those between the ages of 15 and 24. Gonorrhea, on the other hand, skews toward those in their late 20s to early 30s.

Total chlamydia cases in Linn County reached 1,248 last year, dropping slightly from 2018 when the case count was 1,299.

Gonorrhea reached 417 total cases countywide in 2019, also a decline from the 439 cases reported the year before.

Johnson County, however, saw an increase in its chlamydia cases last year after officials reported 1,176 total cases. In 2018, the total was 1,021 cases.

However, gonorrhea rates dropped in the county in 2019, falling from 222 cases in 2018 to 216 cases reported last year.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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