Douglas County sees jump in STD rates; gonorrhea increases by 30%

Posted at 5:49 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 07:01:20-05
Chlamydia cases in Douglas county are reaching an all time high while reported cases of gonorrhea skyrocketed by 30 percent.
A report from the Douglas County Health Department details some alarming statistics about sexually transmitted disease rates in our area. 
While these statistics appear troubling - local health organizations say there's an explanation.
The Women's Fund of Omaha says the spike in cases can be attributed to education and an increase of about 25 percent in visits to STD clinics. 
"In reality, it should come as no surprise. Douglas County has some of the highest rates in the state and nation. In fact, they've been higher than the national average since 1998," said Brenda Council, Adolescent Project Manager, Women's Fund of Omaha.  "In fact, they were declared an epidemic in 2004 by the Board of Health."
For years, Douglas County has struggled to lower its STD rate but the number of cases has continued to climb.
"You need to know your health status," said Council.
Initiatives like the Adolescent Health Project are educating youth and involving parents in the dialogue. It's educating 15-24 year olds that sometimes STDs can be asymptomatic. This means more people are getting tested.
They've also started doing swab testing in addition to urine testing. Free testing clinics are located at libraries across the country. The Women's Fund of Omaha says the larger testing pool means they're more likely to discover new cases.
"When we initiated our project, we understood and expected if we were successful in encouraging more young people to get tested for STDs that you would see some spike in the number of cases that would be identified through that screening process," said Council. 
In 2016, there was a 4.8 percent increase leading to 3,400 Chlamydia cases and about 1,400 gonorrhea cases.
"You know, we are living in a very unusual time. There's a lot of social media that we are working against," said Dr. Adi Pour, Director of Health, Douglas County Department of Health. "There are a lot of apps that people are using these days, so its difficult for us to find those partners who may have also been exposed."
It's a pattern that will take time to reverse.
The Douglas County Health Department cant do it by itself. Health care providers can't do this by ourselves," said Dr. Pour.
140 locations across the Omaha are distributing free condoms. There are also many sites in Omaha and Council Bluffs that offer free STD screenings. To find more information, click here
The Women's Fund of Omaha is launching a new campaign called the Birds and the Bees and the STDs. It encourages a collaborative discussion between parents, educators and youth on STD prevention. You can find more information here