The last eight months, Onslow County Health Department recorded almost the total cases of — a potentially deadly, but curable, infection — it tallied all five years before.
The county’s soaring rates parallel state and national upticks of the “complex sexually transmitted disease that has a highly variable clinical course,” according to a case definition by Centers for Disease and Control.
From July 1 to Feb. 29, the county recorded 17 cases, health department spokeswoman Pamela Brown told The Daily News. From January 2010 to June 2015, the department had 18 cases.
“With , once you get to Stage 3, we’re talking about mental illness. We’re talking about the possibility of death,” Brown said. “It’s not something that’s just going to go away. Also, unfortunately, it can be passed on to others.”
Antibiotic doses vary to treat the disease depending on its stage.
The data accompany no simple explanation for the uptick in .
“Really, your health depends on a lot of things. It depends on the air you breathe. It depends on the water available to you,” Brown said. “Health is really a community thing. That’s why it’s so scary.”
Wanton intimacy seldom accompanies record-sharing of one’s intimate past, she added.
“People who are hooking up randomly, they’re not saying ‘Hey, I want to see your lab results,'” Brown said. “If you’re sleeping with someone, you’re kind of sleeping with everyone they’ve slept with. That’s why it’s best to know your status. It takes a lot of moving parts to keep people safe.”
Statewide, rates are highest since 2000, according to a release by N.C. Health and Human Services.
The agency called for citizens to find proper, periodic screening.
“The number of cases in North Carolina increased 40 percent from 2014 to 2015 with the highest number of cases in some of the state’s most populous counties: Cumberland, Durham, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake,” according to the release. “The majority of cases are reported in males. In calendar year 2014, men made up 90 percent of those diagnosed, and of these new cases most were among men reporting sex with men.”
There were 1,113 cases of early in 2014, according to case data from Health and Human Services.
“In North Carolina, there has been an increase in reported ocular cases, including those presenting with severe or complete vision loss,” according to case data from 2014.
In early stages, the disease can cause genital, rectal or oral sores, according to Health and Human Services. also can transmit during pregnancy to unborn children.
– The health department’s totals may or may not include all other local clinics’ totals. Some may send their data directly to the state, which has data from 2013 and, the latest, from 2014 online.
Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s total cases dropped in the last year, Lt. Cmdr. and Deputy Director of Public Health John Gardner told The Daily News. There were seven cases in 2015 and only one case has been reported this year.
“This may be due to the increased education/training opportunities that are being presented to the active duty population onboard Camp Lejeune,” Gardner said.
When asked which sexually transmitted diseases were the most debilitating, Gardner ranked three diseases that included the infection: HIV, latent and hepatitis C, he said.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are most prevalent at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, he said.
January to March last year, the facility had 192 cases of chlamydia; that time this year, the hospital had 231 cases of chlamydia. There were 687 chlamydia cases there last year and in 2016, the hospital has had 231 cases of that sexually transmitted disease.
Gonorrhea cases have risen from 12 cases the first three months of 2015 to 15 cases this year, Gardner said.
He also described the impacts of sexually transmitted diseases, including miscarriages and infertility.
The health department offers free blood tests that trace all major STDs, Brown said.
“This is one of those core public-health functions. When people come into our STD clinic, we want to test them for everything,” she added. “Our STD clinic is a walk-in clinic.”
It takes about 10 days for lab results to return, she said.
Of 2,091 people tested in 2014, Onslow Memorial Hospital recorded eight cases of that year; of 1,784 tested last year, there were seven cases of , according to data from the county enterprise.
Chlamydia also was more prevalent at Onslow Memorial than gonorrhea the last two years. There were 196 cases in 2014 and the same total was tallied last year. So far, there have been 39 cases of chlamydia at the hospital this year and 21 cases of gonorrhea. There were 59 cases in 2014 and 51 cases of gonorrhea last year at the hospital.
Brown said part of the challenge is trying to understand new behaviors that affect public health.
“We try to stay up to date on things that are driving people,” she said. “We realize people have to make decisions for themselves.”
For more information, call the STD nurse at 910-347-2154, ext. 3904, or visit OnslowCountyNC.gov/Health/.
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