Area leads state for STD rates, expert says

Unsafe sex, college student populations thought to contribute



STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have all increased nationally. Whitman County is highest in the state.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen reporter

The number of STD cases in Whitman County are increasing at an alarming rate.

“Right now Whitman County has the highest STD rate in Washington state because of the college campus,” said Deanna Claybaugh, a nurse for the Whitman County public health office.

In this past year there were 471 chlamydia cases, 38 gonorrhea cases and eight syphilis cases.

The number of syphilis cases increased by 150 percent since the first of this year through June. Chlamydia and gonorrhea cases have also spiked, with chlamydia increasing 7 percent and gonorrhea by 38 percent.

Part of that apparent increase is due to the public health office collaborating with WSU and Planned Parenthood to get more complete data, Claybaugh said.

Whitman County officials have been seeing more people diagnosed with STDs because the health department is working with WSU Health Services and Planned Parenthood to provide college students safe sex education, which has led to more students getting tested.

They have worked closely with both entities to give out more condoms and provide education and outreach to student groups.

Treatment of these STDs usually require either an injection or a pill, Claybaugh said. The stage and type of STD determines the treatment.

The uptick follows a national trend of increased STD rates.

According to an August report by the Centers for Disease Control, the agency saw steady increase in the number of STDs reported in 2017 including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. The numbers surpassed the previous 2016 record.

In addition to the increased rate of STD transmission, there is also a strain of gonorrhea that can resist the ceftriaxone injections used to treat the virus.

The CDC recommends a single shot of ceftriaxone along with an oral dose of azithromycin for gonorrhea treatment to help delay resistance to ceftriaxone.

Still, the ceftriaxone-resistant cases are rare, Claybaugh said.

Because there are more advanced options for birth control, college students often believe it’s fine to have unprotected sex, Claybaugh said. But condoms provide necessary protection against STDs as well.

“Practice safe sex no matter who you’re with,” Claybaugh said, “even if you’ve been with them a long time and limit the sexual partners you have.”

Editor’s note: This article was corrected at 5 p.m. Monday September 10 to correct the source’s name, which was incorrectly attributed to another nurse,  and clarify statements made by the source, and information about the number of individuals diagnosed with STDs and a statement about a strain of ceftriaxone resistant gonorrhea.