The title isn’t one you’d brag to your parents about. Young people, however, have done it again. Blue Earth County snagged the top spot in the state chlamydia rankings.

This is one predicament that can’t be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minnesota Department of Health’s recent report of sexually transmitted diseases counts cases in 2019.

The county had 524 cases of chlamydia last year, which is a rate of 819 per 100,000 residents. This is not a new trend for our area. Blue Earth County previously ranked second in 2018, fourth in 2017 and 2016, and fifth in 2015.

And the area’s reputation was in place even before then. Maybe everyone’s forgotten former Vikings football player Chris Kluwe, but his 2013 quote about Mankato being the STD capital is remembered by many.

Young people, and their parents and their health care providers need to be informed. Most people don’t have symptoms of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Residents between 15-34 years old accounted for 88% of chlamydia cases in the state in 2019.

This continued chlamydia uptick should raise red flags even as health concerns are mostly diverted to the coronavirus. Discussion of STD prevention, including the use of condoms, needs to be part of the conversation with young people who choose to be sexually active. And, of course, now if you’re intimate enough to catch an STD, you’re close enough to breathe in the coronavirus.

Changes in socializing and physical distancing might mean STD numbers will dip in 2020, but the climb in chlamydia cases has been part of a trend that likely won’t fade for good if at all. From 2015 to 2019, the county’s chlamydia rate rose by 72%.

This isn’t only Blue Earth County’s problem, despite its high ranking in this particular STD. Overall STD cases — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — rose statewide as well in recent years.

A positive sign in the county is that about 80% of the chlamydia cases were already treated by the time the health department received the case reports. That means most people are seeking treatment when they should.

The sharing of this information annually is important to keep the public informed about what exactly is going on in their counties so they can be aware and take measures to protect themselves.

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