PEORIA, Ill.– Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in Peoria County; health leaders say the numbers are alarming.
The incidences of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea continue to be 1.5 to 3 times higher than state and national numbers.
Rates are highest between the ages of 15-29 years old.
Another concern, Syphilis infections rose 81% between 2017-2018.
In 2018 there were 29 confirmed cases of Syphilis reported to the Peoria City/County Health Department. In 2017, there were only 16.
Men accounted for 82.7% of the cases. Men who have sex with men accounted for almost 48% of the cases.
There were six Syphilis cases in the 61603 zip code, six cases in the 61605 zip code, and 17 cases in the rest of Peoria County.
Syphillis incidence rates were highest among individuals between the ages of 40-49 years old.
“For several years Peoria County has had disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted infections in comparison to other counties in the state of Illinois. We rank second-highest for rates of chlamydia and third highest for rates of gonorrhea. Gonorrhea rates actually significantly decreased in 2018 compared to 2017 but they’re still higher than they were in 2016,” said Endress.Katy Endress | Director of Epidemiology & Clinical Services at Peoria City/County Health Department
She also says the highest case rates of STIs are happening in the 61603, 61604, and 61605 zip codes.
In the 61603 zip code, there were 384 cases of Chlamydia. 128 were of people between the ages of 15-29, and there were 142 cases from people between the ages of 20-24.
In 61604 the case count was 399. 113 cases were of people between the ages 15-29, and 162 between the ages of 20-24.
In 61605 the case count was 361. 109 cases of people aged 15-19, and 141 cases between people in the age range of 20-24.
“The three zip codes comprised 64% of Chlamydia cases and 75% of Gonorrhea cases while only accounting for 34% of the population in Peoria County,” Endress said.
The total amount of Chlamydia cases reported is 1,781. 1,204 were women, 577 were men.
The overall incidence is 955.0 per 100,000 people.
2018’s number of reported cases is the highest it has been in the last 15 years. The number of cases has more than doubled since 2003.
There was a total of 658 cases of Gonorrhea in Peoria County for 2018.
328 cases from men and 330 from women.
In the 61603 zip code there were 159 cases. 34 cases from adolescents aged 15-19 and 48 cases between young adults aged 20-24.
The 61604 zip code was a bit lower with 156 cases. 36 from people aged 15-19 and 49 cases from people aged 20-24.
The 61605 zip code had the highest amount of cases at 172. 34 from people aged 15-19 and 67 from the ages 20-24.
Gonorrhea did decrease from 2017-2018, but the number of cases reported was still the highest it has been since 2012.
2017 saw a huge increase from 2016; going way up to 433 cases in 2017.
The rates of STIs are greater among African Americans living in Peoria County.
Health leaders advise you get yourself checked and practice safe sex.
“Women are at a higher risk than men for contracting chlamydia. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which is very serious. It can lead to ectopic pregnancies and infertility,” Endress said.
Endress says 70% of women and 90% of men won’t show signs of Chlamydia, so it’s very important to get checked if you are having unprotected sex.
When compared to neighboring counties, Peoria County had significantly high incidence rates for both Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Peoria County’s Chlamydia was more than three times higher than Tazewell County and more than four times higher than Woodford.
Gonorrhea was more than five times higher than Tazewell and more than eight times higher than Woodford.
While these numbers are staggering and a bit dreadful, what is being done to make the amount of STI cases decrease?
In December 2016, the Peoria County Board of Health approved the Tri-County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) 2017-2020.
“CHIP provides a systematic approach to address health issues identified through a community-driven process. Reproductive health is one of the four priorities to be addressed in collaboration with community partners,” said the Peoria City/County Health Departments’ STI Report.
Some goals of the program are to reduce total preterm births among Peoria County African American/Black women to 11.4% by 2019.
Reduce gonorrhea rates among men and women ages 15-44 years by 10% by 2019.
Reduce pregnancies among adolescent females age 15-19 years by 10% by 2019.
The Health Departments’ strategies are preconception care and contraception, service learning programs, comprehensive risk reduction sexual education, behavioral and biomedical interventions, and parenting and caregiver interventions.
“The Reproductive Health Work Group was started several years ago focusing on these health disparities in Peoria County. We have a goal to reduce the rates of Gonorrhea by 10% by 2020. It’s part of our community health improvement plan,” Endress said.
“We’re focusing on reducing these rates of sexually transmitted infections by increasing comprehensive sexual health education throughout District 150. This year sophomores are the first class to have received the full component of the curriculum beginning in 5th grade. We have seen a reduction in rates of sexually transmitted infections among students ages 15-19,” Endress said.
“Rates are still high between the ages of 20-24. That’s a cohort that did not receive this curriculum. We’re seeing that potentially this curriculum is being effective at reducing those rates of sexually transmitted infections,” Endress said.
“Another strategy to reduce these rates is the ‘Get Yourself Tested’ events being held at Peoria area high schools. These events started in 2016, there were two events, and then there were four events in 2017.
Endress says the rates are partially increasing because adolescents are learning the importance to get tested.
“We attribute some of the increased rates due to increased testing. Now we’re seeing those rates go down as far as Gonorrhea this last year. We attribute that to with the increased testing, we have increased treatment for these infections as well,” Endress said.
You can also learn additional information including data and improvement planning at www.healthyhoi.com
You can also send additional questions to Dr. Mohammad Mousbah AL-Tabbaa at firstname.lastname@example.org