Five Hills Health Region is increasing its efforts to clamp down on chlamydia, according to public health officer Dr. Mark Vooght.
Vooght told the Times-Herald on Wednesday that the region is witnessing an increase in the recorded rate of the sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Last year, the region recorded an incidence rate of 28 cases per 10,000 people, translating to approximately 151 cases across Five Hills, which covers a population of about 54,000 people.
This is a marked increase from 2006, when just 14.5 cases per 10,000 people were recorded. It remains significantly lower than the provincial rate, which sat at 52.1 cases per 10,000 people in 2011, but it’s still unsettling news for the region.
“Since 2008, we’ve seen a rise in our chlamydia rates,” Vooght said. “It’s still of concern because the rates keep climbing.”
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs across both the region and Saskatchewan. Contributing to its spread is the fact that it can be asymptomatic in as much as 50 per cent of cases.
“Lots of times, there are no symptoms,” said Veronica Hawley, a public health nurse specializing in teen wellness. “You want to trust your partner, but 100 per cent, you can only trust yourself.”
Symptoms of chlamydia include a painful burning sensation, which can develop further to pelvic inflammatory disease or epididymitis. These can result in hospitalization, while sufferers are also at risk of further complications regarding fertility and conceiving.
Like gonorrhea, chlamydia can be detected using a urine test. As a bacterial infection, it can typically be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Any health care provider can perform the test, but Hawley said teens and young adults looking for testing and other information can turn to the local Teen Wellness Clinic.
The clinic, located in the Public Health Services office at 110 Ominica St. W., is open five afternoons per week and offers free STI testing for males and females up to age 21.
The services offered are free and confidential. Information is provided on numerous topics, from abstinence, birth control and pregnancy to suicide, depression and abuse.
Hawley recommended that teens and young adults adopt safe sex practices. The clinic offers a variety of affordable contraceptive options.
“If you are having sex, then you need to be tested regularly,” she added.
Those under 30 hold the greatest risk of contracting the infection, said Vooght, especially “people who haven’t settled down in monogamous relationships.”
“If you’re in that age group and you haven’t had a test in the last year, it would be prudent to consider that,” he said, also recommending the use of "barrier methods (like) condoms, as I say, at every conceivable opportunity."
For more information, see the Thursday edition of the Times-Herald.