Disease Intervention Specialist recognition day was recently held, and the day was to bring awareness to those who help provide the public with information about sexually transmitted diseases.
One such worker is Mary Costello, who is one of seven Iowa’s D.I.S. workers for its 99 counties. Costello has about 500 cases every year, and a huge part of the job is calling people who normally wouldn’t want to hear from the Public Health department. Costello said the call is to inform parties that they may have been exposed to an STD.
And, for 13 years, this has been her job, assisting thousands of individuals with their STD crisis and informing partners too, which can happen to anybody. Many times people use the word infection because it sounds better than disease. After all, an infection means it can be treated and cured while a disease is something some could live with for the rest of their life.
The problem with STIs is that many of them don’t display symptoms – usually limited in how symptoms show themselves. For example, syphilis symptoms could be a mere sore where a person uses a cream, and the sore is gone – no itch, no pain. After several months, a rash appears on other parts of the body, and someone is none the wiser about where it comes from. No pain, no itch – just an unusual rash that ends up going away.
If syphilis, like other STIs, is left untreated, the symptoms could cause long-term effects such as infertility. And, unfortunately, the number of STI cases are on the rise. While Costello isn’t sure why this is, it may be due to the cut in resources. She said some funding avenues are not what they used to be. She said family planning clinics have closed, affecting rural communities.
In the last few years, Costello said it’s been easier getting ahold of people. In the past, it was looking through the Yellow Pages or connecting with them through family members. Today, cell phones make it harder to connect with them by phone, but social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and others make the connection easier.
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A sexually transmitted disease – HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes and syphilis, to name a few – can happen to anyone young or old. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are roughly 20 million new STD cases each year – with a fraction of those being reported.