By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
An increase in gonorrhea cases resistant to traditional drug treatment has prompted state health officials to recommend a change in treatment of the disease.
Curry County ranked third in the state last year for gonorrhea with 118 cases, according to a New Mexico Health Department report.
Bernallio County leads the state with 833 cases and Lea County is second with 157, according to the report.
Gonorrhea causes damage to the female reproductive system and inflammation to male reproductive organs, according to the health department.
Sandra Sentell with the New Mexico Department of Health in Roswell said health providers are being told to treat gonorrhea with the antibiotic Rocephin instead of Cipro because of a dramatic increase in resistant cases.
Cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are tracked by health officials, she said.
Sentell said Curry and Roosevelt Counties are not experiencing any dramatic changes in the number of sexually transmitted diseases in the last few years.
There were 317 chlamydia cases in Curry County and 129 in Roosevelt County in 2006. There have been no reports of syphilis in either county in at least three years, according to the state report.
Early detection, quick treatment and partner notification are key to keeping STDs under control, she said.
In Roosevelt County, the number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea have dropped in the last year.
“There’s always a fluctuation. You get a lot (of cases) and then we hit it real hard,” she said.
“We just try to keep with the trend and we just keep hoping that the syphilis will stay out of our area.”
According to the state health department, New Mexico is above the national average in cases of syphilis and chlamydia, with lower gonorrhea rates.
When a person tests positive for an STD, health officials conduct an interview in an attempt to identify other sexual partners they have had. Those partners are then notified they are at risk and testing and treatment is begun, Sentell said.
Among demographic groups in Curry County, Sentell said Hispanics lead with the highest STD rates, trailed by Caucasians and Blacks.
But there is concern about black community members because proportionally, Blacks are experiencing a higher rate of STDs within their population, she said.
“Part of the problem is just getting people in for treatment (and) to get them to talk to health professionals. That’s just a harder group to communicate with,” she said.
Sentell said the health department works to increase education about STDs, particularly among high-risk groups.
Inmates are offered a presentation on STDs, according to Samm Smith, program director at the Curry County Adult Detention Center.
In recent months the jail, in conjunction with the health department, began having a monthly STD education presentation. Inmates are shown a photo slide show, engage in a discussion with health officials and can be tested free of charge, Smith said.
“They are surprised, but it also is very educational to them because they don’t know what to look for,” she said.
“Most of them (volunteer for testing). Very few have turned it down once they see the slides. It’s pretty graphic.”
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur “silently” before a woman ever recognizes a problem.
Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called “the great imitator” because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Curry County STD cases
2006 — 118
2005 — 113
2004 — 108
2003 — 57
2002 — 100
2001 — 56
2000 — 104
1999 — 129
2006 — 317
2005 — 318
2004 — 357
2003 — 230
2002 — 312
2001 — 216
2000 — 218
1999 — 231
Syphilis — Last case reported in 2004
Roosevelt County STD cases
2006 — 15
2005 — 27
2004 — 20
2003 — 5
2002 — 16
2001 — 13
2000 — 15
1999 — 25
2006 — 129
2005 — 149
2004 — 121
2003 — 93
2002 — 84
2001 — 84
2000 — 48
1999 — 81
Syphilis — Last case reported in 2002
Source: State Department of Health
Comparing to the U.S.:
In 2006, for every 100,000 people, New Mexico had 509.7 cases of chlamydia while nationally there were 347.8, 4.1 cases of syphilis compared to 3.3, and 89.9 cases of gonorrhea statewide compared to 120.9 nationally.