By Ryan Flanagan
Kitchener Post staff
Chlamydia may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of infectious diseases, but in Waterloo Region, it’s number one.
Between 2006 and 2011, there were 6,414 reported cases of chlamydia locally. That’s nearly half of all reported infectious diseases — almost four times as many as the second-most reported disease, influenza.
Influenza has made an early and devastating appearance in the region this year, with four reported deaths.
But it’s not a surprise that chlamydia strikes more often, says one public health official.
“That’s what we see on a yearly basis, even from the province and neighbouring health departments,” said Lesley Rintche, Waterloo Region public health’s manager of sexual health and harm reduction.
Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). It often doesn’t result in any symptoms, but women can suffer vaginal discharge and infections of the uterus, and men can contract urinary tract infections.
If left unchecked, the disease can lead to sterility in women.
As with all STIs, Rintche chalks up the high number of chlamydia cases to two main risk factors — lack of condom use and multiple partners.
“If someone says they’re clean, you can’t just take their word for it. You might want to have you and your partner tested before you look into or start any sexual activity,” she said.
Most STIs affect young people disproportionately, but the difference is particularly noticeable with chlamydia, where almost 70 per cent of local cases are among people aged 15 to 24.
Chlamydia rates, particularly in young people, are rising across the country.
The disease constitutes 78 per cent of all STIs in Waterloo Region, while between 2006 and 2011, the local chlamydia rate rose by 45 per cent — though numbers remain below provincial averages.
On the other side of the spectrum is gonorrhea, a disease which skews slightly older, but can also be prevented through condom use and limiting the number of partners.
“With people in the older age bracket that we’re seeing, it’s those that are getting into new relationships — newly divorced or newly single,” said Rintche.
In total, there were 13,448 reported cases of 38 different infectious diseases in Waterloo Region between 2006 and 2011.
• • •
infectious diseases in
Waterloo Region, 2006-2011:
Chlamydia — 6,414
Influenza — 1,685
Campylobacteriosis — 923
Gonorrhea — 762
Hepatitis C — 760
Salmonellosis — 680
Giardiasis — 412
Invasive Pnuemococcal Disease — 345
Syphillis — 201
Amebiasis — 151
For information on how to get a flu shot, go to chd.region.waterloo.on.ca or call 519-883-2000.