Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

August 1, 2013

Prostitution fueling increase in STD cases, officials say

BLUEFIELD — Prostitution in Mercer County is adding to the numbers of sexually transmitted disease cases being seen at the Mercer County Health Department.

In June, the health department saw 27 cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), said public health nurse Judy Bolton, RN.

The usual number of STD cases, at most, is 10 to 15 cases a month, she added.

“It’s been especially worse since January this year. We are having a huge number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases, which are sexually transmitted diseases. And there is treatment for those people who come in and get treatment; if they don’t, they can get complications. They need to realize that HIV and hepatitis B is transmitted the same way as chlamydia and gonorrhea.”

Prostitution seen throughout the county is a big factor behind the increase of STD cases.

“Absolutely,” Bolton said. “They’re a big problem here. It’s been worse this past year than we’ve ever seen it before.”

Engaging in prostitution counts, along with drug abuse, as a high-risk behavior, but it is difficult to track prostitutes who are spreading STDs, Bolton said. People who have had contact with prostitutes often cannot provide much information about them to health care authorities.

“When you’re talking about somebody who has been with a prostitute, our job is to bring them (prostitutes) in and get them treated,” Bolton said. “You can never get the names of prostitutes and it’s hard to track them down.”

Mercer County currently has the highest rate in the nation, by population, for Hepatitis B rates, Bolton said. She did not have documentation available for Hepatitis C, but the last information she had heard ranked Mercer County second or third in the nation, by population, for the disease.

Drug abuse and the sharing of needles that sometimes goes with it helps to spread hepatitis, but drug users often don’t realize there are other avenues for infection. Even minute particles of blood, fresh or dry, can carry the disease.

“Some people think if they don’t do intravenous drugs, they don’t risk infection,” Bolton said. “Snorting drugs can transmit it, too. In some cases, it takes very little blood to transmit hepatitis.”

The fact only tiny amounts of blood can transmit hepatitis means sharing razors could be hazardous. Diabetics should not share their lancets, the lancet holder or glucometers because blood could contaminate them, Bolton said.

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