Syphilis, chlamydia rates jump and health officials are worried

A syphilis awareness poster from the 1930s.
A syphilis awareness poster from the 1930s.

How can it be that after decades of public service announcements, education campaigns and plain old word of mouth, some nasty sexually transmitted disease infection rates are climbing, not falling in Minnesota?

That's what's happening.

Total STD cases in the state numbered 17,760 in 2010, compared to 16,912 in 2009, according to new figures released by the Minnesota Department of Health.

"Not only does this total represent a 6 percent increase from the previous year," said Peter Carr, who manages the STD program at MDH, "it's the highest number of cases ever recorded in Minnesota in a single year since we began tracking chlamydia back in 1986."

Syphilis cases hit a 30-year high of 347, a 62 percent spike over 2009. Chlamydia cases reached a record 15,294. Gonorrhea cases marked the only positive trend: 2,119 cases in 2010, down 9 percent from 2009.

Syphilis, chlamydia rates jump and health officials are worried

Chlamydia is a statewide problem. A disease that can make women and some men infertile, it can be passed to a baby during pregnancy and lead to premature birth and blindness or pneumonia in a newborn. Seventy percent of all cases cases are in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24.

Syphilis, with its chancre sores, lesions and even, in late stages, brain and other organ damage, blindness and even death, is concentrated in the Twin Cities, MDH says. Infections are mostly among white men who have sex with other men.

Come on folks. Get screened. Get protected. MDH says it's launching a chlamydia awareness campaign this month, and a similar program this summer targeting syphilis.

Need more advice? Call the Minnesota Family Planning & STD Hotline, toll free, at 1-800-78-FACTS (voice or TTY), 651-645-9360 (Metro area), or visit

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