Reported cases of STDs continue to rise in Lancaster County

LINCOLN, Neb. Sexually transmitted diseases in Lancaster County continue to rise and even though the Health Department hasn’t tallied December’s reported cases 2019 looks on pace to set records.

Health officials say the stats didn’t happen overnight but it’s something they are constantly fighting.

Lancaster County’s two most common STDs remain chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Data shows over the past decade the reported cases of those two and others continue to rise year after year.

The most affected age range, however, remains about the same.

“15 to 20 year olds make up about half of all the STDs that we see in Lancaster County,” said Tim Timmons with the Lancaster County Health Department.

For the past three years reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have for the most part continued on a steady increase. With chlamydia being the highest reported.

At the end of November 2018 there were 1,600 cases, that same time period in 2019 there was already 1,661.

Looking further back in cases of gonorrhea reported going from 283 for the year in 2009 to 551 in just the first 11 months of 2019.

“It’s not going to go away on its own and what you’re going to do is you’re going to end up passing it onto other individuals,” said Timmons. “Putting them at risk for some of these complications and infections.”

Non-profits like Family Health Services Inc. in Lincoln offer STD testing. Health educator Heather Younger says new technology like dating apps can make finding out who you got an STD from more challenging.

“A lot more people are having sex that may not be in a relationship,” said Younger. “Rather than just meeting people at the bars they can have more pointed interactions with people.”

Younger says many times the symptoms of an STD are not apparent to those who have them and getting tested is always the easiest and safest way to know for sure.

“What I like to compare it to is if you’re sitting by someone and they have a cold and you get the cold does that make you dirty because you were sitting beside them? No,” said Younger. “That just means you had some really bad luck.”

CDC funding for STI prevention in Nebraska and states in similar size population showed a bit of a range.

In 2018 the state received just over $300,000 dollars while in New Mexico, which was immediately above Nebraska, received just over $1 million.

Data does show that New Mexico ranked 5th in the nation in chlamydia rates in 2018 while Nebraska ranked 42nd.