Jun. 24—MANKATO — Blue Earth County again had the highest chlamydia rate in the state in the Minnesota Department of Health's latest report on sexually transmitted diseases.
The report measured STDs in 2020, a time when testing was reportedly low due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the drop in testing, Blue Earth County's high chlamydia rate actually came down from 2019's numbers.
The county had 636 chlamydia cases per 100,000 residents in the latest report, compared to 819 per 100,000 residents in 2019.
Both rates were the highest among all counties in Minnesota. Blue Earth County's rate ranked second in 2018, fourth in 2017 and 2016, and fifth in 2015.
The county's drop in total chlamydia cases, from 524 in 2019 to 407 in 2020, as well as the lower rates from one year to the next, synced with what happened statewide. Chlamydia cases in Minnesota dropped by 11% in 2020, the first time cases fell since 2009.
While encouraging in a vacuum, the drop may be the result of testing and service disruptions related to the pandemic.
"That's one of the things we suspect across the state, that not as many people were seeking testing," said Christine Jones, section manager for STDs, HIV and TB at the state health department.
With the state in a much more encouraging pandemic situation so far this year, she encouraged residents to again seek regular testing.
"We definitely want anyone who is sexually active, even if they do not have symptoms, to get regularly tested for HIV and STDs at least once per year," she said.
Many STDs, particularly chlamydia in females, don't cause noticeable symptoms. Testing would be the only way to identify and treat it.
HIV is also more treatable now than it was in decades past. The health department identified two HIV outbreaks in the Twin Cities metro and Duluth areas.
As for Blue Earth County's perennially high placement in chlamydia rates, age demographics offer some explanation for why it happens. Young adults are overwhelmingly the most likely age group to contract STDs, and Blue Earth County has more young people than most counties.
The 2020 STD report, released this week, found 89% of the state's chlamydia cases occurred in Minnesotans between 15-34 years old. A 2015 analysis from the Minnesota State Demographic Center found Mankato and Blue Earth County had the highest percentages of residents in a similar age range, 18-34 years old, than anywhere in the state.
Nearly 48% of Mankato's population was between 18 to 34 years old in the analysis, while Blue Earth County came in at 37%.
Blue Earth County Public Health participates in the state's condom distribution project, said Public Health Supervisor Kelley Haeder in a statement. The program provides community partners with condoms at no cost, which the organizations distribute.
Haeder also noted medical providers in Mankato are diligent about screening for STDs.
Normalizing screenings and education about sexual health are among the effective strategies to reduce STD rates, Jones said. People need to be aware of the signs and symptoms, as well as why testing should be a routine part of their health care regimen if they're sexually active.
For more information from the report, go to www.health.state.mn.us.
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