Darien Health Dept: Sexually transmitted diseases top Darien’s reportable illnesses

Sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia, have risen to the top of the list of reportable diseases in Darien for the last three years.

According to Darien’s Department of Health director David Knauf, before 2015, the flu was the highest in the list of reportable diseases in Darien.

Knauf included the data in his report to the Board of Selectmen in July.


In 2015-16 chlamydia and other STDs topped the flu, 30 instances to 12. In 2016-17, they topped the flu 25 to 10, and 2017-18, STDs topped the flu 36 instances to 4.

The age group for STDs in Darien tends to be 18 to 26, or college and early professional adulthood.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “reportable diseases” are diseases considered to be of great public health importance.  

In the United States, local, state, and national agencies (for example, county and state health departments or the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) require that these diseases be reported when they are diagnosed by doctors or laboratories.

Reporting allows for the collection of statistics that show how often the disease occurs. This helps researchers identify disease trends and track disease outbreaks. This information can help control future outbreaks.

All states have a reportable diseases list. It is the responsibility of the health care provider, not the patient, to report cases of these diseases. Many diseases on the list must also be reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Mayo Clinic reports STDs are generally acquired by sexual contact. The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood and other bodily fluids.

Sometimes these infections can be transmitted nonsexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles.

The Mayo Clinic reports it’s possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy, and who may not even be aware of the infection. STDs don’t always cause symptoms, which is one of the reasons experts prefer the term “sexually transmitted infections” to “sexually transmitted diseases.”

STDs can have a range of signs and symptoms, including no symptoms. That’s why they may go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Darien is not alone. A recent report from the CT Mirror said each of these diseases hit record high levels last year.

That CT Mirror analysis showed that:

  • Gonorrhea cases increased 67 % nationwide from 2013 to 2017 and 37 % in Connecticut, an increase to 3,913 cases statewide.
  • Syphilis cases increased 76 % nationwide, and actually doubled in Connecticut, increasing from 56 cases to 110.
  • Chlamydia, which is far more common, increased 22 % nationwide and 39 % in Connecticut, up to 17,750 cases.

Knauf told The Darien Times that the data may indicate a lack of sexual education in the age group, or may correlate with binge drinking or drug use behaviors that cause young people to be less cautious.

Chlamydia is not only the most frequent STD, it is the easiest to treat, Knauf said — usually by antibiotics.

The list of reportable diseases can be updated or changed depending on the evaluation of health officials and usually involved diseases that might result in epidemics. It also helps track trends and occurrences.

Knauf said last year he assisted with a campaign to help get overdoses added to the list of reportable diseases to help track their occurences. However, it was unsuccessful. Knauf says he hopes to try again. “We’ll keep at it,” he said. 

Doctors are not legally required to test for diseases that might prove to be reportable. There are several reasons they may not be reported. In some cases, Knauf said doctors might evaluate an illness by examining symptoms and opting to just begin treatment without lab testing for time or convenience reasons.

For this reason, Knauf said he believes some illnesses like Lyme disease, the flu and STD occurrences might be unreported.

For example, the frequently-used in-office flu swab test by physicians isn’t one that requires a doctor to report the results. It needs to go to a lab in order to be counted toward the total.

“Most just don’t get a lab to confirm,” Knauf said.

“It’s a judgement call for physicians. Everyone is busy and it’s just another form to fill out and submit. We view the numbers that we have as just the tip of the iceberg as to what’s really happening. We can monitor trends and see some shifts — STDs didn’t use to be number one four years ago,” Knauf said.

For more information on sexually transmitted diseases, visit www.cdc.gov/std/.

For more information on reportable diseases in Connecticut, visit /portal.ct.gov/DPH/Infectious-Diseases