Chlamydia rates on the rise on Manitoulin

by Alicia McCutcheon

MANITOULIN—The Sudbury and District Health Unit (SDHU) has reported that cases of chlamydia on Manitoulin is on the rise and shows signs of increase each year.

Stephanie Gray, a SDHU public health nurse at the Mindemoya office, explained that her clinics have definitely been busier with more people making appointments to get tested since the winter of last year.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria and passed from person-to-person during unprotected sex or through childbirth. The STI is most prevalent among young adults ages 17-24.

Women are almost always tested for the STI during yearly pap tests, along with gonorrhea, but it’s men that need to come forward, Ms. Gray explained.

“Leaving the infection untreated can lead to sterility or pelvic inflammatory disease,” she added.

The nurse noted one of the reasons men are more unlikely to come in for the tests is because of fear of “the swab.” Before, men were subjected to a penile swab when tested for STIs. Now it’s a simple urine test, which, the nurse suggested, may be why the rates are steadily on the rise.

“Every year, rates are increasing because the tests are getting better,” she noted. “And getting the test done is definitely recommended for those who have unprotected sex.”

In 2010, there were 539 cases reported in the Sudbury-Manitoulin district and numbers until June of this year show 259 cases. This does not account for First Nation numbers, however, as these statistics are handled by Health Canada.

“Rates of chlamydia are increasing both locally and provincially, but Ontario’s rates are lower than many of the provinces and territories,” Ms. Gray said. “And, of course, it can definitely be avoided by not having unprotected sex.”

While there are not always symptoms, Ms. Gray noted that symptoms in men and women will differ.

Women infected may notice vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, pain during urination or sex and breakthrough bleeding, or ‘spotting,’ between periods

Men may see a watery or milky discharge from the penis, burning or itching at the end of the penis, a burning sensation when urinating and swelling or pain in the testicles.

Both sexes may have red, itchy watery eyes, discharge from the eyes, pus or mucus discharge in stools and mild to sever pain during bowel movements. It’s also possible to have the STI in the throat, the nurse added.

“But most of the time, nobody knows,” Ms. Gray said.

The good news is chlamydia can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Among her other duties as a public health nurse is “contact tracing.” If a case is confirmed, Ms. Gray will sit down with the patient and have them give the contact information of sexual partners so she can call and let them know they may be infected with an STI and urge them to get tested.

“The services and testing here at my office in Mindemoya, and at the Manitoulin Secondary School clinic, are free and confidential,” the nurse explained. “We also offer low-cost birth control, free condoms, pregnancy and STI testing, options counselling, HIV/AIDS anonymous testing, pap tests and pelvic exams too.”

Ms. Gray encourages anyone who would like to access any of these services to call her at 705-377-4774 x. 739 or email her at grayst@sdhu.com.

“We need more boys to get tested,” she urged.