FORT WAYNE – Sexually transmitted diseases and infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea increased significantly in Allen County last year, propelling the county above state and national rates.
Rising STD rates are a serious public health issue, said Dr. Deborah McMahan, health commissioner for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Health Department.
In Allen County, chlamydia increased 17 percent last year over 2010, with about 600 in 100,000 people confirmed with having the infection. The national rate is 426 in 100,000 while the state is 355 in 100,000. Gonorrhea cases did not rise as much – only 4.8 percent, but the rate of 149 in 100,000 is above the state and national rates of about 101 in 100,000.
Syphilis increased 67 percent last year with 15 confirmed cases as opposed to 9 in 2010. But the county rate of about 2 in 100,000 people is below the state rate of about 3 in 100,000 and the national rate of 5 in 100,000.
McMahan said she is not sure of the reasons behind the increase in STDs.
The higher STD rate, coupled with the county’s increase in teen pregnancy, is evidence that teens are having sex, McMahan said.
“The ones we talk to seem to know all of the right answers, but for some reason, just don’t apply it to their own lives,” McMahan said.
The teen birth rate in Allen County was 48 per 1,000 females in 2011 but is at 47 for this year. The national rate is 22 in 1,000, and the state rate is 44 in 1,000.
Forty percent of the births in Allen County in March were to single moms, although not all of those were teens, McMahan said.
STDs are on the rise among older people, particularly senior citizens, said Todd Rumsey a physician at Women’s Health Advantage in Fort Wayne and also vice president of the county health board.
“The people (getting STDs) are not young, they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” Rumsey said. “They know all about safe sex, but they do not think it applies to them.”
HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is increasing at such a rapid rate that 80 percent of women will have been exposed to HPV by the time they are 50, Rumsey said.
HPV is thought to be the source of many more types of cancer than cervical, the cancer usually associated with HPV.
Recent findings suggest that HPV may be to blame for many neck and throat cancers, McMahan said.
“Oral sex is can lead to these kind of cancers and is thought to be caused by HPV,” she said.
According to a recent report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, oral cancer linked to HPV is increasing so rapidly that by 2020, HPV will be responsible for more cases of throat cancer than cervical cancer.