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Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Rates Rise in Alaska

Alaska has been leading first or second in the national since 2000 in reported cases of Chlamydia.  The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released a bulletin on Wednesday stating a rise in reported Chlamydia rates.  However, the department says there is a different disease that’s causing concern.

In a bulletin released earlier this month reporting a comparison of infectious diseases on record in Alaska for 2012 and 2013, chlamydia grew from 5400 to just under 5800.  HIV and STD program manager for the State of Alaska Department of Health Susan Jones says although chlamydia doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms, it’s still something to be worried about.

“We worry about it because it can cause complicated infections in both men and women and can lead to infertility in women and sterility in men. It can also lead to chronic pelvic pain which happens after a woman gets pelvic inflammatory disease, which leads to infertility. The fallopian tubes become infected and scarring occurs and then the egg can’t move down the tubes for implantation. And it can affect the baby and it can cause pre-term labor.”

Alaska has had a relatively high chlamydia rate for over a decade.  However, Jones says the more pressing issue is the growing rate of gonorrhea.  In 2012, Alaska saw 730 reported cases of gonorrhea, but in 2013 there were 1130-- ranking Alaska fifth in the nation.

“The outbreak first began to spike in 2008, it peaked in 2010 and declined through the beginning of 2012 and late into 2012 the gonorrhea numbers began to spike again.”

Jones says the demographic groups for gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in Alaska are slightly different.  The majority of chlamydia cases are among 15-25 year old females.  The majority of gonorrhea cases are among 25-35 year olds.  However, the bulletin shows that both diseases are reported in Native Alaskans the most. 

For patients infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia, physicians have similar ways of informing sexual partners of an infected person.

“If we were to contact someone with an infection, we ask a person that is infected please disclose who their partners are, partners who may be exposed to the infection or who they may have gotten the infection from. That’s all volunteer, they can volunteer that information. It’s because we do public health follow up that we ask the information.”

Jones says the department then contacts those who have been named and informs them, without revealing the sources name, and encourages them to get tested. 

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can weaken the immune system which can leave a person more susceptible to HIV.