Chlamydia is Number One STD
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Chlamydia tops the list of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reported in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 75% of cases, there are no symptoms associated with the infection. Indeed, chlamydia is called the "stealth bomber disease,'' by the CDC's Dr. Judith Wasserheit, who spoke at the CDC-sponsored 1998 STD Prevention Conference in Dallas this week.
The disease is rampant in some areas of the US, but education and prevention efforts have paid off in other areas of the country, reducing cases of infection. Untreated chlamydial infections can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, scarring of the fallopian tubes, and infertility.
"There has been a rapid, reproducible decline in incidence (in areas where prevention efforts are in place),'' said Wasserheit in an interview during the meeting. "Within 5 years, there has been a drop in incidence in the Pacific Northwest of 60%.''
Two primary reasons for the effectiveness of campaigns against chlamydia are home-based urine test kits and single-dose therapy for chlamydia infection. Because of the high rate of asymptomatic disease, widespread screening using methods - such as the urine test - are crucial to control the disease, said Wasserheit.
Lack of education about the disease is another factor in its spread. Myths regarding STDs are common. For example, a CDC study of more than 500 teens attending health clinics in the southeastern US found that 57% believed birth control pills would protect them from sexually transmitted diseases, 67% believed douching would protect them, and 84% though having only one sexual partner would protect them from STDs.
Over half the girls in the study had had at least one STD and more than one-third had been infected with chlamydia. Wasserheit said that adolescents in some areas of the country - such as the southeast, where rates of chlamydia infection are highest - are not receiving the education available in other areas of the country, such as in the northwest.
"When we see persistently high rates of STDs - particularly curable diseases - there is a breakdown in communication, whether it's between the parent and child or patients and clinics, patients who can't get an appointment, or who have to wait too long, or patients and healthcare providers,'' Wasserheit said. Some healthcare providers are unprepared and do not have the proper tests or treatments.
"These are things we ought to be able to provide in the wealthiest nation in the world,'' Wasserheit said.