Saturday, October 27, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: A heat map of syphilis rates throughout suburban Cook County. | Cook County Department of Public Health
The villages of Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park have some of the highest chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infections in all of suburban Cook County, according to data released by the Cook County Department of Public Health this summer.
The high rates were so concerning to county health officials that the department convened a roundtable to discuss the problem and ways to bring the rate down, particularly among teens and young adults, at the Maywood Park District, 921 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood, on Oct. 25.
Around 22 representatives from 13 different agencies from a range of sectors, including healthcare, government, education, faith-based and workforce development, attended the discussion.
The data was included in the Annual Sexually Transmitted Infections Surveillance Report that the department released in June 2018. The report, which comes out every two years, is based on cases from 2014 to 2016.
Bellwood and Maywood each had more than 882 reported cases of chlamydia per 100,000 population, nearly double the rate for suburban Cook County. And the two towns each had more than 237.8 cases of gonorrhea per 100,000 population, nearly double the suburban county rate.
Bellwood, Maywood and Melrose Park each had more than 18.1 reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis, more than double the rate in all of suburban cook county.
A chart showing the rate of three STI’s in four Proviso Township suburbs. *Indicates their corresponding number on the county’s heat map (see below). | Chart by VFP/Data by Cook County
From 2014 to 2016, according to the report, 70 percent of reported chlamydia cases were female. In 2016, 65 percent of reported cases were individuals between 15 and 24 years old while 41 percent of cases were non-Hispanic black — three times higher than the rate in Hispanics.
From 2014 to 2016, the proportion of reported Gonorrhea cases increased from 51 percent to 59 percent and, as with chlamydia, most of the cases (58 percent) were individuals between 15 and 24.
During the Oct. 25 meeting, county health officials said that chlamydia is the most frequently reported infectious disease in the country.
“In 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chlamydia rates (per 100,000) were 529 nationally,” health officials explained in a statement released this week. “They were 588.6 in Illinois, and 494.8 in [suburban Cook County].”
During the roundtable discussion, county health officials said that in 2017, the chlamydia rate for females, ages 20 to 24 in Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Hillside “was 10,094 (per 100,00)” and that the rate for “females in all of suburban Cook County in 2017 was 4,751.5 (per 100,000).”
A heat map of chlamydia rates throughout suburban Cook County. | Cook County Department of Public Health
Health officials said that gonorrhea “is the second most frequently reported infectious disease in the U.S. According to the CDC, gonorrhea rates (per 100,000) were 172 nationally, 186 in Illinois, and 129.4 in [suburban Cook County].”
Damian Christiansen, the health department’s director of communicable disease prevention and control, said that bringing the rates down requires a variety of actions.
“By working together, we hope to raise awareness, increase testing and treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections, and empower everyone to have excellent sexual health,” he said.
Those in attendance honed in on a variety of concrete solutions to addressing the infection rates, including providing age-appropriate sex education in schools, reducing the fear and stigma related to sex and testing “in a supportive and non-judgmental way” and encouraging people who are sexually active to get treated and tell others about treatment.
Christiansen said that in order to reduce the number of sexually transmitted infections, “we all need to work together – health departments, health care providers, parents, and everyone who is sexually active. Don’t guess. Get a test.”
Anyone who is sexually active can get STIs. If you are sexually active, CCDPH urges you to:
GET TESTED | Most STIs do not have symptoms. Find a testing site near you here.
GET TREATED | Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be treated with the right doses of the right antibiotics. Your provider may be able to give you medications to give your partner as well.
USE CONDOMS | Use condoms the right way every time you have oral, anal or vaginal sex including hookups arranged through an app. Request condoms from CCDPH online here.
CALL COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH | Call 708-836-8637 if you need help notifying partners. If you receive a call from the health department, answer or return the call in case a partner is trying to notify you of an STI. VFP
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