The Illinois Department of Public Health found that reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases have increased statewide during the past several years, a trend health professionals are also noticing in McHenry County.
In Illinois, cases of chlamydia increased 14 percent and cases of syphilis increased 82 percent from 2008 to 2012. Gonorrhea cases increased by 15 percent between 2010 and 2012.
There were 434 reported chlamydia cases last year in McHenry County, up 80 percent from the 241 cases reported in 2010, according to the McHenry County Department of Health. Gonorrhea cases were up 43 percent as doctors reported 23 cases last year from just 16 in 2010. And after no reported syphilis cases in 2010, McHenry County recorded three in 2013.
The uptick in reported sexually transmitted disease cases has health professionals encouraging residents to get tested and to take actions to protect themselves.
"People believe they're invincible," said Dr. Len Hering, an obstetrician and gynecologist for Centegra Health System. "It can happen. If someone rolls the dice enough times it will happen."
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections that can be treated with antibiotics, but most people don't show any symptoms and infections are often undiagnosed and untreated, according to the IDPH. Syphilis, on the other hand, can be fatal if not treated correctly.
Those who are sexually active should get tested regularly in order to catch the STD before symptoms worsen, Hering said.
"People have the idea that they would show symptoms early," he said. "But with chlamydia and gonorrhea, they are typically not going to show symptoms until [the disease] starts causing terrible symptoms."
In the United States, 20 million new STD infections occur each year, according to the IDPH. Almost half of those cases are among young people age 15 to 24. If untreated, STDs can cause serious health conditions such as infertility among women.
McHenry County Department of Health Communicable Disease Coordinator Mary Lou Ludicky said that while the numbers suggest more people are being infected with STDs, electronic reporting systems and increasing to doctors the importance of reporting has likely played a role in the rise.
"It's a combination of both," she said. "But I can tell you that improved reporting has probably had an impact."
Hering said the best way to prevent an STD is to limit sexual contact and always wear a condom, and those who have sex with multiple sexual partners should get tested regularly for STDs. To find a local testing locations people can go to http://HIVtest.cdc.gov
"People need to be clear in their communication with their sexual partner," Hering said. "If you care enough about someone to be intimate with them, you need to be clear about [your medical history]."