NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Sexually transmitted infections (STI) and the resulting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are spreading faster over the last five years in the U.S. and locally in New Hanover County.
2017 saw a record-breaking number of new STD cases in the U.S., with the top three diseases being chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, according to preliminary data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New Hanover County, there's been a steady rise in cases of the four most common sexually-transmitted infections from 2013 to 2018, according to data from North Carolina DHHS provided to WECT.
In New Hanover County, the most common STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV.
"We're not seeing a drastic increase, but a steady increase," said Ashley Vernon, RN, STD Program Coordinator with the New Hanover County Health Department. "Chlamydia is number one."
New chlamydia cases in New Hanover County diagnosed by year:
- 2013: 964
- 2014: 1,000
- 2015: 1,113
- 2016: 1,170
- 2017: 1,257
- 2018 (Jan-June, preliminary data): 597
"We obviously don't have the final data for 2018," said Vernon.
Syphilis has surged over the last 5 years. There was just one case reported in 2013 and 7 cases reported in 2015. January through June data from 2018 shows there have been 10 cases so far this year.
Vernon offers advice for how you can decrease your risk of getting infected.
"Abstinence is the most reliable way to reduce your risk," said Vernon.
As for everyone else?
"Limit your number of partners. Mutual monogamy -- which means you have sex with only person, and that person decides to have only sex with you. And then obviously using condoms, that's the most reliable, consistent way to reduce your risk," said Vernon.
If you have multiple partners and do not use condoms, Vernon recommends STI screening every three to six months.
"Most STIs are not symptomatic, so you may not know you're carrying an STI," said Vernon.
Going untreated can result in severe health consequences down the road, said Vernon.
"A lot of patients don't understand the severity of STIs," said Vernon. "Patients can have infertility, ectopic pregnancies, and it can increase their risk for contracting HIV."
Vernon said almost all STIs are treatable, which is why testing is recommended.
"The anxiety ahead of time is usually worse than the actual process that you go through to get tested," said Vernon. "Please get tested."
The New Hanover County Health Department offers free STI screenings by appointment, and treatment is also offered. Free condoms are available at the health department.
"STIs are treatable and preventable, so that's a positive," said Vernon.