Rising Rates of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Among Adolescents in Washtenaw County, According to Data

A recent report from the Washtenaw County Health Department highlights an uptick in chlamydia and gonorrhea cases among teenagers, despite a noted decrease in overall cases.

Data reveals a 23% increase in reported cases among teens aged 13-17 from 2022 to 2023. Additionally, there has been a rise in chlamydia cases among residents aged 50 and older.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, as per the CDC. Pregnant women can also transmit these infections to their babies during childbirth.

Many infected individuals may not experience symptoms initially, but symptoms can include genital discharge, painful urination, discomfort, bleeding, and swelling. Chlamydia, if untreated, can lead to permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system and may hinder future pregnancies.

“Many STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, often present without symptoms, underscoring the importance of regular testing,” emphasized Kaitlin Schwarz, MPH, epidemiologist at the Washtenaw County Health Department. “Effective treatments are available.”

Schwarz added, “This local data also underscores the need for parents and guardians to discuss STI prevention with teenagers. Numerous local providers offer affordable, non-judgmental testing and treatment.”

Despite higher rates in these demographics, the health department reported a 6% decrease in chlamydia cases and a 17% decrease in gonorrhea cases across Washtenaw County.

“It’s encouraging to observe declining chlamydia and gonorrhea rates locally over recent years,” Schwarz noted. “Washtenaw County’s STI rates consistently remain below state averages.”

However, the report reveals disparities across zip codes within the county, with the Ypsilanti area recording the highest incidence of chlamydia cases. The 48103 area in Ann Arbor saw a 7% increase in gonorrhea rates.

Residents have access to various testing services through the WCHD, including STI testing, hepatitis B and C testing, free HIV testing, pregnancy testing, birth control counseling, and pap smears.

Free condoms and lubricants are available via vending machines at the Washtenaw County Health Department. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as Doxy-PEP (doxycycline) treatments for reducing the risk of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis after exposure, are also provided. Antiretroviral and antibiotic medications like PREP and PEP are available for those at risk of or exposed to HIV.

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