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Butte-Silver Bow Health Department

The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department is located at 25 W. Front St.

Here are some numbers on sexually transmitted diseases — so far this year (through April 6), Butte-Silver Bow has seen 43 confirmed cases of chlamydia, 15 cases of gonorrhea, and 21 cases of hepatitis C.

This stuff is out there, and this stuff is harmful. Chlamydia is very common, the most frequently reported bacterial STD. If untreated, this infection can progress to pelvic inflammatory disease, with prospective permanent damage to the reproductive organs. An estimated 2.86 million infections occur in the United States annually.

Gonorrhea too is common — about 820,000 new infections occur annually, with about 570,000 of those cases experienced by people ages 15 to 24. Gonorrhea causes disease in the genitals, rectum and throat, and in women, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.

More than 30,000 cases of acute hepatitis C are reported in the United States annually — 75 percent to 85 percent of people who become infected develop a chronic, lifelong infection. Up to 3.9 million people in the United States live with this chronic infection, which can cause long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is a prime cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants in the United States.

April is a good time to talk about this nasty business, since in our country it’s STD Awareness Month. In addition to following cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and hepatitis C, and helping people diagnosed with these infections, the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department also follows HIV infections and syphilis — no cases of either have been confirmed thus far in Butte this year.

In addition to following STD cases and reporting them to the state, which reports them to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the local Health Department also tests for STDs and either provides treatment or refers those infected to other healthcare providers. Staff members available to help those who may be infected work in our Family Planning Clinic (497-5080) and our HIV Prevention and Early Intervention programs (497-5077). We are also out educating in the schools in our region, teaching evidence-based curricula about personal responsibility to students in grades 6 through 9.

Butte-Silver Bow is affected by STDs. In 2018, the county saw 126 confirmed cases of chlamydia (we’re well on pace in 2019 to exceed that number), 52 cases of gonorrhea, and 84 cases of hepatitis C. The county also saw six cases of syphilis.

Worried that you might have an STD? Call one of the phone numbers above, and we’ll get you tested. I’m proud to relay that you’ll find our staff incredibly non-judgmental, empathic and helpful.

The thing about STDs? If you’re sexually active, you’re at risk. Problematic is the fact that most of these diseases have no symptoms, so that person you’re having sex with may be infected, but not know it. HIV, for example, can exist in dormant fashion in the human body for years.

So get some peace of mind and get yourself tested. We’re here to help – the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department is located at 25 W. Front St. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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Karen Sullivan is Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer and Director of the Health Department. Her column, The Public's Health, appears weekly on The Montana Standard's health page.

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