FARMINGTON — Infection rates for certain sexually transmitted diseases are on the decline in Davis County.

Chlamydia is still the most common communicable disease reported in the county, but beginning in 2007, health officials have noted a drop in the rate of reported cases.

Gonorrhea, which ranks seventh in reports of infection, also has been declining recently.

Neither disease is considered fatal, but both can cause sterility in women and pain in men.

In 2006 the chlamydia rate of infection per 100,000 people was 191, and in 2007 the rate dropped to 182 per 100,000.

For 2008, Davis County epidemiologist Brian Hatch is predicting a rate of 180 chlamydia cases per 100,000 population.

Gonorrhea rates are expected to take a steep drop this year, Hatch said.

In 2005, the gonorrhea rate per 100,000 people peaked at 21 and has declined slowly since then, reaching a rate of 20 cases per 100,000 in 2006; and 18 cases per 100,000 in 2007.

Hatch predicts that 2008 will see a rate of 11 cases per 100,000.

It's encouraging, Hatch said, for several reasons.

Declines in sexually transmitted diseases can mean that the message of safe-sex practices is getting out into the community, because both diseases are easily preventable, and if people are taking the message to heart, fewer people will be infected.

In 2007, the Davis County Health Department hosted a summit focusing on these two STDs because growing infection rates had been reported for so many years.

One of the messages that came out of the summit was a need to be more aggressive in finding people who could be infected.

Hatch has six communicable disease investigators, four of whom spend all of their time investigating sexually transmitted diseases, which account for 40 percent of the diseases investigated by the health department each year.

When a case is reported, an investigator seeks to get treatment for that individual, as well as information about that person's partner(s) to warn them about the possibility that they're infected — a process called contact-tracing and partner notification.

Davis County has stepped up training for investigators so they have the skills to help people to get tested at the health department. Many infected people may not have symptoms, Hatch said.

"It's aggressive work," Hatch said, adding that the ring of contacts from a single infected person gets bigger and bigger as investigations progress.

Treatment for the diseases is simple, Hatch said. A single-dose oral antibiotic is all that's required to treat chlamydia, and a single injected antibiotic for gonorrhea.

Testing for the diseases is free, and so is the treatment.

The 2007 STD summit also yielded other advice for health departments: a need to be proactive in the community and to educate students about STDs.

During 2007, Hatch's staff visited three Davis District high schools and taught health classes about STDs and how they can be prevented, highlighting abstinence as the best preventive measure.

"We have partnershipped with school district in helping them to teach a tough topic to our youth," he said.

Members of Hatch's staff are available to teach high school health classes on request.

"We would like to think the message is going out," Hatch said.

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