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Decline in sex diseases after years of growth has Ottawa Health officials hopeful

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea diagnoses dropped in 2019, according to preliminary county data.

HOLLAND, Mich. — Public health officials in Ottawa County continue promoting awareness, as sexually transmitted disease diagnoses have dropped after a decade of increase. 

Diagnoses of chlamydia and gonorrhea, the two most common reportable STDs in the county, rose most of the 2010s, said Derel Glashower, senior epidemiologist at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

"Thankfully, they've plateaued and even rolled over in the last year or two," Glashower said. 

Chlamydia in Ottawa peaked in 2017 and slightly decreased in 2018. Preliminary data shows another small drop in 2019 data.

"Gonorrhea peaked in 2018 and has come down in 2019 in Ottawa County," he said. "That increase over the last decade is something that we're seeing at the state and national level. So it's kind of a rising tide across the whole country."

Credit: WZZM
The 2019 Ottawa County STD data is still preliminary.

In the U.S., gonorrhea cases rose 63% from 2014-2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia cases increased by 19%. 

Part of the reason for this rise is likely due to increased awareness, said Kristina Weighmink, public information officer for the health department. 

"We're seeing more access and more people getting tested for STDs," Weighmink said. "We're getting a lot more reported and treated, so that's a good thing."

With targeted testing in particular areas, officials may be doing a better job finding what's already out there, Glashower said. 

RELATED: 2 West Michigan cities in top 40 list for STD rates

"Other things that could be contributing are better ways to meet partners, like using social media or online apps," he said. "There's a lot of research that needs to be done and questions that need to be answered."

Ottawa is one of 40 Michigan counties participating in the Wear One campaign, which was developed to create more access to free condoms and decrease STDs among young people. Through Wear One, people in Ottawa and Allegan can receive free condoms in the mail. 

"We want to make sure we're increasing access, availability and acceptance," Weighmink said. "We hope people will feel comfortable having these conversations and also know that the resources they're looking for are available and not be afraid to get tested and get treatment."

For more information on STD testing, Wear One and sexual health, visit the health department website.


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