SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Alarming statistics show a growing health concern nationwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 20 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and HIV in the U.S. last year, including a record breaking number of cases for the three-mandatory reported STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
“The biggest risk factor is having unprotected intercourse,” said NeighborCare Health Nurse Clinical Practice Manager Rachel Wang Martinez.
It’s not rocket science, but it is sexual health knowledge we can’t ignore. Safe sex like dental dams and condoms can stop the spread, but you have to use them.
“Most folks are not going to say 'well, let’s wait and do this at another time when we can be more prepared,'” Wang Martinez said.
It’s part of the reason the CDC reports skyrocketing STD rates. In Snohomish County, there was a 40 percent increase in chlamydia, a 112 percent increase in syphilis, and a 243 percent increase in gonorrhea cases from 2011 to 2016.
Wang Martinez said many people have an STD and don’t know it because they aren’t getting regularly tested.
“It’s asymptomatic, meaning most people don’t know that they have. So ,they’re passing it around without realizing it,” Wang Martinez said.
Wang Martinez pointed to one potential new tool: the website DontSpreadIt.com provides a way to anonymously let people know you might've given them an STD.
“You can send an anonymous text message or email to someone saying check out this secure message doesn’t say who it’s from, and just letting you know you may be at risk for a STD and gives them an advice on where they can go for testing,” said Wang Martinez.
Once you know you have it, treat it.
“They can cause problems like damage to the organs including infertility issues and syphilis if left untreated can cause major health concerns including death,” said Wang Martinez.
Wang Martinez says not using preventative measures, not getting tested, and spreading it are all secondary reasons for rising STD rates, right after a lack of education or awareness.
“Most kids do get their information from friends, so making sure the youth is well informed is especially important,” said Wang Martinez.
She says STD rates in King County are holding steady and points to comprehensive sex education as making the difference in getting kids to wise up about STDs.