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Alaska ranks top, near top for 2 sexually transmitted diseases

Posted: May 4, 2011 - 8:26pm

ANCHORAGE — Alaska again is ranked either first or near the top for two sexually transmitted diseases despite increased efforts to control the epidemics, according to state public health officials.

Health officials said Tuesday that Alaska ranks first for chlamydia and second for gonorrhea.

The information about chlamydia is not surprising. Alaska has ranked first every year since 2000 for that sexually transmitted disease.

In 2010, health officials say Alaska’s rate was again highest in the country with 6,026 reported cases. That means there were 849 cases per 100,000 people, up 13 percent from 2009 and more than double the national rate, health officials say.

Gonorrhea also is on the rise in Alaska — second only to Mississippi. The state says there were 1,273 reported cases of gonorrhea in 2010, a 23 percent increase over the previous year when Alaska was ranked ninth.

It was in 2009 that public health officials began calling attention to a rapid increase in new cases of gonorrhea in much of Alaska.

Susan Jones, program manager for Alaska’s HIV/STD program, told the Anchorage Daily News that Alaska’s rate of disease might be high because the state is diligent about investigating reported cases. She said symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia can be mild for some patients, who may not realize they are infected. If it goes untreated, however, it can lead to infertility in women.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics. Some health providers in Alaska are providing antibiotics to the partners of infected patients without first examining them in an effort to control the epidemics.

The vast majority of both chlamydia and gonorrhea cases occurs among people under age 30, Jones said. They are more likely to be sexually active, and have more partners, than older people.

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