July 8, 2008

STDs Still a Concern in La Crosse County

By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 8--Sexually transmitted diseases continue to be a public health concern in La Crosse County.

For the past several years, STDs have been on the rise, and that didn't change much last year, according to the 2007 La Crosse County Health Department annual report.

The number of gonorrhea cases in the county more than doubled, from 27 in 2006 to 62 in 2007. The first episode of genital herpes also increased significantly from 74 in 2006 to 108 last year.

The good news is the number of chlamydia cases dropped for the first time in several years from 355 to 335, but Doug Mormann said the number is still too high.

"STDs continue to be a problem, but it's not a unique problem to our county," said Mormann, director of the

La Crosse County Health Department. "We always have a new group of people who need to be educated in that area."

The number of AIDS and HIV cases dropped in 2007 -- from nine AIDS cases in 2006 to three last year and 13 HIV cases in 2006 to six in 2007.

The county had only six cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, in 2007 after pertussis outbreaks with 44 cases in 2004 and 20 cases in 2005. Only four cases were reported in the county in 2006.

Dave Geske, the health department's vector control officer, doesn't believe the official numbers that show the the number of Lyme cases dropping from 131 cases in 2005 to 31 in 2007.

Geske said Lyme cases increased last year -- many just didn't meet state and national criteria to count as cases. He said the reporting system has been changed this year and should better reflect the accurate number of cases in the county in the 2008 report.

No arboviral infections -- La Crosse encephalitis and West Nile -- were reported in 2006, but three cases were noted in 2007. Geske said one case is a person who tested positive but had been ill before last year.

Hepatitis B cases were down from 19 in 2006 to 13 in 2007, but hepatitis C cases were up from 36 in 2006 to 46 last year.

Mormann said La Crosse County is one of the state's healthiest counties, ranking in the top 25 percent in a report by the Wisconsin Public Health and Health Policy Institute in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School.

"We're continuing to address obesity, tobacco and alcohol issues and healthy lifestyles to help people make better and healthier decisions," Mormann said.

Public hearing

A public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. today in Room B190 of the La Crosse County Administrative Center to gain input on services and ideas for the health and human services departments in preparing for their 2009 budgets.

By the numbers

Notable details from the 2007 La Crosse County Health Department report:

--The average health status of La Crosse County residents is among the top 25 percent of counties in Wisconsin.

--The department investigated more than 750 reports of communicable diseases.

--August 2007 floods resulted in more than 400 flood victims and emergency workers immunized, 600 drinking water tests and more than 100 home safety assessments.

--More than 2,000 food, water, air and environmental health safety inspections were made.

--Partnerships developed to expand alcohol misuse education and reduction of smoke exposure in the workplace.

--More than 900 health nursing visits provided to about 80 people.

--Laboratory provided 17,000 drug tests (justice sanctions program), 5,000 drinking water tests and 1,300 landfill groundwater monitoring tests.

--About 2,300 participants in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program received nutritional services each month.

--Public health nurses had 9,000 clinic visits for immunizations, TB screenings and other services.

--More than 500 different mosquito breeding locations were monitored and treated as needed to reduce disease-carrying mosquitoes.

--To see the full 2007 La Crosse County Health Department report, go to at www.co.la-crosse.wi.us/


Source: La Crosse County Health Department

Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at [email protected], or (608) 791-8227.


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