Vt. health officials concerned by rise in sexually transmitted diseases

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Doctors are concerned about the growing number of cases of sexually transmitted infections in Vermont. Health officials report in 2016 there were more than 2-million confirmed cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis across the country. So how does Vermont rank, and who are the people the state is most concerned about?

Vermont and New Hampshire continue to be at the bottom of the pack in terms of infection rate per population," said Daniel Daltry with the Vermont Health Department. While that sounds good, Daltry says it doesn't mean Vermont is out of the woods. "Our numbers are certainly ahead of the curve than what we typically see."

Daltry is the program chief of HIV, STD, and viral hepatitis at the health department. He says since he started the job 12 years ago, things have spiraled downward in the state. "We had just under a 1,000 cases of chlamydia. Starting in 2014, we surpassed 2,000 cases of chlamydia," he said.

What's scary about those numbers? He says it only includes the confirmed cases, so someone who went to the doctor and got tested. "National suggestion says the reported cases only cover a fifth of the cases out there, so while our numbers are steady at 2,000 we potentially have greater than 10,000 cases in Vermont," Daltry said.

And what's even more troubling is who is being diagnosed with the infections. "With chlamydia we are looking at the majority of the cases in the past 17 years, 25 years of age and younger," Daltry said.

Health experts say unprotected sex is the only way to get the bacterial infections. Luckily, all of them are treatable. But before you need meds, Daltry suggests everyone to get tested. "If you're sexually active... it is a time to begin testing," he said. "Having symptoms -- I need to figure out what's going on. Targeted screening goes a long way. Routine screening goes a long way."

The most recent numbers for confirmed cases in Vermont date back to 2016. Daltry says the department expects updated numbers for 2017 to come in March.