Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are commonly caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. They can be passed from one person to another through the air or contact with contaminated bodily fluids and objects. Some are transmitted by insects or animals. Others are transmitted by consuming contaminated food or water.
The epidemiologists at Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health provide information and consultation to medical professionals and community members to help control the spread of these diseases. They monitor and investigate many infectious diseases, gather and analyze disease statistics and report diseases to the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Reportable Diseases 

Reporting cases of infectious disease is an important step in controlling and preventing their spread. 
  • State law requires that certain diseases are reported to the Minnesota Department of Health.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases make up over 85% of all reportable diseases in Ramsey County.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur when bacteria, viruses and parasites are spread, mostly by sexual contact. Pregnant people may pass STDs on to their infants during pregnancy, birth or breast/chest feeding. Some STDs are transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, sharing syringes/needles or from contaminated piercing equipment and tattooing needles.
Clinic 555 offers confidential, low-cost, quality testing and treatment of STDs. 

Chlamydia & Gonorrhea

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable with medication. Both STDs usually have symptoms, but not always. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause permanent damage to reproductive organs if not treated.
  • In 2021, there were 3,137 reported cases of chlamydia in Ramsey County, a rate of 577 cases for every 100,000 residents. Current state and national rates are 396 and 496 per 100,000, respectively. 
  • Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota.
  • There were 1677 reported gonorrhea cases in 2021, representing a 5.7% decrease from 2020.


Syphilis is a serious sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. Once syphilis enters the body, it can damage organs and the nervous system. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics.
  • In 2021, the total of syphilis cases was 225 cases compared to 138 cases in 2020. This is a 63% increase in the total cases.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease caused by germs (bacteria) that mostly infect the lungs but can also affect other organs such as lymph nodes, kidneys, spine and brain. The germs are spread through the air. When a person with active TB disease coughs, sneezes, speaks or even laughs, the bacteria can be inhaled by another person. People are most likely to become infected with TB if they spend many hours in close contact with someone infected with active TB disease, such as family members. Though TB is a serious disease, it can be treated with medication.
Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health's Tuberculosis Clinic provides screening for persons that have been in contact with active TB disease. Treatment and case management of persons with either latent TB infection or active TB disease is also available through the clinic.
  • Beginning in late 2016 an outbreak of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) cases that disproportionately impacted Hmong elders was identified in Ramsey County. Between 2016 and 2021, Ramsey County identified 30 cases of MDR TB (this compares to seven cases of MDR TB in the entire state from 2010 to 2015).
  • In 2021 there were 7.4 confirmed cases of TB per 100,000 population in Ramsey county. Residents born outside of U.S. experienced a rate of 37.4 cases per 100,000 population.
  • Ramsey County does not meet the Healthy People targets related to TB. For the general population the goal is to reduce the case rate to 1.4 cases per 100,000 population. For foreign-born persons the goal is to reduce the case rate to 14 cases per 100,000 population.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Immunizations prevent diseases at all ages. Immunizations protect people from many infectious diseases and they protect vulnerable people who are unable to be immunized due to age or medical circumstances such as cancer. Immunizing children is important. People who are not immunized are more susceptible to dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases.
Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health's Immunization Clinic provides low-cost shots for infants, children and adults who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover shots.

Influenza (The flu)

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. A yearly vaccination against the flu is recommended for all people six months and older.
  • Vaccine is available. Call your doctor or Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health's Immunization Clinic to schedule an appointment.


Measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It is no longer common in the U.S. but is common in many other countries and may be brought into the U.S. by unvaccinated travelers. Measles can cause ear infections, pneumonia, seizures and, in some instances, even brain damage and death.
  • One of the largest measles outbreaks in Minnesota occurred in 2017 with 75 cases reported. Among these cases, 3 were Ramsey county residents.
  • Minnesota's Somali community was disproportionately affected by the outbreak.
  • A vaccine is available. Call your doctor or Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health's Immunization Clinic to schedule an appointment.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that spreads when a person eats contaminated food or touches objects that have the virus on their surface. It can also be spread by having sex or sharing needles/pipes with someone who is infected. The virus can cause serious liver damage, even liver failure.
  • Hepatitis A is spreading among people in Minnesota who are living homeless or injecting drugs. In 2019, 51 cases of Hepatitis A were reported in the metropolitan area.
  • Minnesota declared a Hepatitis A outbreak in May, 2019 with 26 confirmed cases.
  • Vaccine is available. Call your doctor or Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health's Immunization Clinic to schedule an appointment.


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a disease that affects the lungs. Pertussis bacteria are spread from person to person through the air. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer.
Pertussis in infants is often severe, and they are more likely than older children or adults to develop complications. The disease can lead to bacterial pneumonia, and in rare circumstances, seizures, brain inflammation and even death.
Pertussis remains endemic despite an effective vaccine and high coverage rates with the primary series. Reported incidence of pertussis has consistently increased over the past 10 years, particularly in middle school-aged children, adolescents, and adults.


Varicella, also called chickenpox, is a disease that causes an itchy rash of blisters and a fever. A person with chickenpox may have as many as 500 blisters. The rash spreads over the whole body. Chickenpox can be serious, even life-threatening, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, people who are pregnant, and people with weakened immune systems. 
Chickenpox spreads very easily by touching chickenpox blisters or through the air when someone with chickenpox coughs or sneezes. The virus does not live long on surfaces. Vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of chickenpox. In addition, avoiding close contact with others who are sick, washing your hands often, and staying home if you are sick can help prevent the spread of chickenpox.

To learn more about epidemiology and disease, visit
Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health.