Experts warn about STD spread among teens
Chlamydia transmitted through party games
By Jeff Hansel and Joshua Lynsen
Oral chlamydia is becoming more common among adolescents, according to local public health officials.
Bridget Berkland, an educator with Olmsted County Public Health Services, said the sexually transmitted disease has become more prevalent as more students engage in oral sex.
"There is an increase in STDs in the mouth," she said. "It does become a party game, and they think they're not going to become pregnant."
Public health statistics show one-third of adolescents believe oral sex is "safer sex" because they don't think sexually transmitted diseases spread that way. But they do. Berkland said teens need to know that.
Ehryn Barthelme, education program manager at Planned Parenthood in Rochester said health workers are aware of the problem.
"Oral sex has increased really rapidly, especially among (teenagers)," she said.
Chlamydia is spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. If untreated, the disease can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and other problems.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Health, cases of chlamydia rose 6 percent statewide during the most recent reporting period. About 10,700 cases were reported in 2003, compared to 10,100 cases in 2002.
Olmsted County reported 274 cases of chlamydia in 2003, compared to 226 cases in 2002 and 172 cases in 2001. State officials said the majority of chlamydia cases were seen in white females ages 15 to 24.
"Teens and young adults continue to share the greatest burden of STDs in Minnesota," said Dr. Harry Hull, state epidemiologist.
Ginny Amundson, Rochester's Parent/Teacher/Student Association president, said forums such as the one the association conducted on Tuesday are one way to educate parents and children.
"We know that, as parents, that children are becoming sexually active earlier," she said.
Organizers said Tuesday's forum was the first of three events discussing sexual health, drinking and depression.