People infected with chlamydia is at an all-time high

The number of people in Washington infected with chlamydia is at an all-time high. According to the Washington State Department of Health 16,796 people were diagnosed with chlamydial infection in 2003. The Department of Health is advising all sexually active women age 25 and younger to be tested at least once a year for chlamydia.

Chlamydia is a serious health threat to all sexually active people, especially to those age 25 and younger. Up to 90 percent of people with chlamydial infection show no symptoms. "Many people with chlamydia are unaware they have the disease, which means they could be transmitting it to their sexual partners. That is why screening is so important," said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes.

Screening and treating chlamydial infection early can help prevent further complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, infertility and pneumonia passed to an infant from an infected mother. Pregnant women should be tested at their first prenatal care visit. Also, a woman with chlamydia is up to five times more likely to acquire HIV if exposed. Men with painful urination or discharge from the penis should seek immediate medical attention. All sex partners of persons infected with chlamydia should be screened and treated at once.

"Because the number of people infected with chlamydia is at an all-time high, it is even more important for health care providers to test young women regularly, at least once a year," said Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, University of Washington. "Excellent new urine tests for chlamydia can be performed on men and women. Women no longer need a pelvic examination to be tested."

The best way to avoid being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from vaginal, oral and anal sex. You can reduce your risk by maintaining a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Correct and consistent use of a condom can reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases; however, no protective method is 100 percent effective.

The Department of Health is raising awareness about chlamydia to motivate young, sexually active women and men to seek testing. A chlamydia-screening guideline is being distributed to all health care providers in the state. More information on chlamydia is available on the Department of Health Web site . To be tested and treated for exposure to a sexually transmitted disease, contact your health care provider. If you are a person at risk and don't have a health care provider, the Department of Health Web site has information about testing in your area or call 1-800-272-2437 to find a provider near you.

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