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United States: a heavy burden of Chlamydia in young women and men


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) data showed a heavy burden of chlamydia in young women and men in the United States, particularly among pregnant women.

Other research found that federal sexually transmitted disease ( STD ) prevention efforts have prevented millions of infections and saved an estimated $5 billion in direct medical costs over the past 30 years.

“ STDs often have no symptoms and therefore frequently go unrecognized and undiagnosed,” said John Douglas, director of CDC’s STD prevention programs. “ Stepping up screening and prevention efforts is critical to ensuring that young people do not suffer the long-term effects of untreated chlamydia, including infertility.”

In the first nationally representative study of chlamydia prevalence in the general adult population ( ages 14-39 ), CDC researchers found a chlamydia prevalence of 2.2 percent and no significant differences between women and men overall.
Nearly 1 in 20 women between the ages of 14-19 ( 4.6 percent ) were infected – the highest proportion of any age group.
Among men, 20- to 29-year-olds were most heavily affected, with a prevalence of 3.2 percent.
Prevalence was higher among blacks in all age groups, at 6.4 percent, compared to 1.5 percent among whites.
The findings were based on responses from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey ( NHANES ) from 1999 to 2002.

Two separate analyses of economically disadvantaged young adults ( 16-24 ) enrolled in a national job training program found that roughly 1 in 10 were infected with chlamydia.
Analysis of test results from more than 106,000 young women from 1998 through 2004, nearly two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic, found that 10.9 percent were infected. Prevalence was highest among 16-year-old women at 13.3 percent.

CDC’s evaluation of test results from more than 50,000 young men ( 63 percent of them black or Hispanic ) in the same job training program from July 2003 to December 2004 represented the first widespread chlamydia screening among men in the U.S.
The results showed 8.2 percent were infected with chlamydia, with the highest rate among 20- to 24-year-old men ( 8.8 percent ).
Only 2.4 percent of men with chlamydia had reported symptoms, suggesting they would have remained undiagnosed without the screening offered by this program.

In a separate study, researchers analyzed data on more than 86,000 women ages 15-45 who were screened for chlamydia at publicly funded prenatal clinics in 18 states.
Test results were positive for 5.8 percent, with the highest prevalence among 15- to 19-year-olds ( 9.7 percent ).
Prevalence among black women ( 11.1 percent ) was nearly four times that of white ( 3.9 percent ) and Hispanic ( 3.8 percent ) women.
Because chlamydia can have serious consequences for newborns, including pneumonia and conjunctivitis, study authors recommend continued emphasis on prenatal chlamydia screening.

In 2003, 877,478 cases of chlamydia were reported in the United States, making it the nation’s most commonly reported STD.

Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics but is often undiagnosed because of its lack of symptoms.
Besides infertility, the disease can cause other serious health problems in women: pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.
CDC recommends the delay of sexual initiation among teens as the only 100 percent effective method of STD prevention, and annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women under age 25.

Source: CDC, 2005


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